The Server-Side Pad

by Fabien Tiburce, Best practices and personal experiences with enterprise software

Posts Tagged ‘google

Fee-Based APIs Are Coming (It’s a Good Thing!)

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While Google has captured an overwhelming share of the search market by combining relevance with simplicity and speed, capitalizing on Google’s data to build business applications hasn’t been easy.  To this day, while you can buy a license for Google apps, maps and other offerings, the terms of use of the core search engine remain restrictive for B2B use.  In no uncertain terms, the terms of use state “The implementation of the Service on your Property must be generally accessible to users without charge and must not require a fee-based subscription or other fee-based restricted access”.    While this doesn’t rule out commercial ventures per se, it does rule out fee-based systems.  Ad-based systems are inappropriate for most B2B applications delivering the type of value-adding service that a corporate client typically expects to pay for, without ads and other distractions.

Why would a login-protected SaaS business application want to search Google?  The web is the largest collection of human knowledge ever assembled.  It’s also slowly being re-engineered semantically as a giant global database.  Thus opportunities abound for businesses to systematically mine the web and provide value-adding services on top of web-sourced data.  So why isn’t Google opening up its API to B2B use?  Google may be a search engine by function, it’s an advertising company by revenue.    Google doesn’t make money crawling the web, its  revenue is primarily generated by Sponsored Links.    Since ads don’t mesh well with API-sourced data (typically returned in a non-human readable format such as XML or JSON), Google doesn’t have much to gain by giving it away.

This post would end on a rather pessimistic note if it weren’t for the wonders of competition.   Being a distant second in the search market, and no longer the centre of attention, Yahoo has been quietly but relentlessly pushing the envelope lately.  They supported microformats long before Google did.  They also announced fee-based use of their BOSS Search API starting this year.  This is great news for two reasons.  Firstly, the fee eliminates the restriction to ad-based systems.  Secondly, the fee comes with assurances: response time guarantees, continued investment and support, as well as no usage limits.

Search engines and semantics are increasingly the “glue” of the Internet, a global repository of information which is starting to look more and more like a database (albeit one with no overarching schema).  Fee-based APIs enable an ecosystem of value-adding niche B2B players to mine, transform and add value to web-sourced data.  I hope other web properties follow Yahoo’s lead and open their API, for a fee, to B2B use.

Written by Compliant IA

May 28, 2009 at 9:32 pm

The Road to the Semantic Web is Paved with Microformats

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microformatsGoogle recently and quietly announced something huge, “rich snippets”.   Rich snippets are smart previews, displayed right on a search results page.   While Google has long relied on snippets to attach a bit of information to each link (thus letting the user know what he or she might expect on each page represented by a link), rich snippets go a step further: they extract key characteristic of the page, be it a rating of a review or a person’s contact information.    Google doesn’t have to guess it, it knows it.  Google’s rich snippets are powered by microformats and RDFa, two semantic standards that are rapidly gaining adoption.   Google’s implementation allows semantically-marked web content (such as reviews and contact information) to be exposed, aggregated and averaged  in a Google search results page.  In short, after years in the lab, the web is at last, albeit quietly, becoming semantic!  

Microformats are not a substitute for the semantic web, they are a stepping stone and a very important one.  They demonstrate the feasibility and value of adding semantic meaning to web page content.   They do so using existing browsers and standards.  They do so today, in the field not in the lab.  By making web pages understandable to both humans (also known as readers…)  and machines, using current technologies, current browsers and minimal effort, microformats allow web content to be reliably understood and aggregated by search engines.   The future is bright.  Google could, for example, calculate an average review for a book from a list of semantically compliant sites.  Google could also uniquely identify a user as a single human being across sites.   The semantic web, a web of meaning, is finally taking shape.

I am convinced the semantic web is going to change the way we publish content, exchange, correlate and aggregate information, both in the public domain and the enterprise.   It’s an exciting time for web professionals who can look forward to building companies and next generation systems that leverage semantic data.


In Toronto and interested in the semantic web?  Join us at the Toronto Semantic Web group on LinkedIn.

Written by Compliant IA

May 15, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Success 2.0: Build Great Teams. Build Small Teams. Be Agile.

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colSuccess in the web 2.0 sphere makes for an easy sales pitch.  You need to spend less money.  You need to get a product out faster.   And the catch is…? None, but spending less is not as easy as it seems.    You need the right framework, the right partners, the right methodology.  Here are some principles Betterdot Systems abides by in everything we do…

1)  Build great teams.  As Marcus Daniels once told me, “You are better off starting a business with an A team and a B plan than a B team with an A plan”.   Why?   Because the A team will eventually gravitate to the A plan anyways.  The A team will innovate, will find the way, the shortest path.  Hire great people.  Work with great partners.  Build your A team.

2)  Build small teams.  Small teams do great things.  The mighty Google is said to have no team larger than seven.  Meanwhile Microsoft used armies of developers to produce the much vilified Vista operating system.    Build small teams.  Assign them a clear mandate.  Give them responsibilities.  Let them shine.

3)  Be agile.   Don’t fight change, embrace it.  Focus on the user experience.  Try rapid prototyping and commit to frequent releases.  Be nimble, be agile.

The principles above allow us to do more, do it faster and do it for less.  Sales pitches are so web 1.0… 😉

Written by Compliant IA

April 13, 2009 at 1:37 pm