Why Yahoo doesn't get it (and Microsoft does)

So after blogging about how Yahoo and Microsoft have adopted Google's sitemap standard, I thought I'd go ahead and re-submit some of my websites with these search engines. After all, now that they were going to read the sitemap, it couldn't hurt, right?

Here's an instance where Microsoft gets it and Yahoo doesn't: When you're trying to build relevance of your search engine, you don't make people jump through hoops.

Take a look at Yahoo's submission page.

Yahoo submit a website

Actually, it's not a submission page — it's a login page. Yes, that's right. You have to have or create a Yahoo account in order to submit your site to Yahoo. In other words, their claim of a "free" submission is a bit misleading, because they aren't considering the fact that you're required to give your name, your birthdate, your email address and your zipcode as being a cost. Yeah right.

Okay, so I figured, What's the big deal? I have an account somewhere. Unfortunately, after all the email system crashes and hard drive failures I've had over the years, I could not find my login info. So I figured I'd just make a new account.

Ah, but there's another catch: They want your site browser to accept cookies.

Now call me a tinfoil hatter if you want, but ever since I read about Yahoo's we-track-every-website-you-visit-and-add-it-to-our-database-on-you policy
*, I've been a bit cagey with regards to Yahoo. At some point along the line, I did more than opt out of their rather offensive privacy-invading program — I started blocking Yahoo's cookies.

And of course that came back to bite me today, when I was unable to create a new account with Yahoo. Mark me down as a casualty of not wanting to give up my privacy to some faceless conglomerate just so I can add value to their product.

As a contrast, take a look at Microsoft's submission page.

Microsoft submission page

Very simple. Enter your URL and they send their 'bots a 'crawlin'. In other words, Microsoft wants you to help them add value to their search engine. (Even their captcha is easier to decipher.) After all, if they don't have accurate and comprehensive search results, their relevance will diminish and they will lose market share.

This is something Google has known for a long time. While they like you to register for things like analytics and testing your sitemap, they are perfectly happy to index your site even if you have not given them your identification portfolio. After all, what good is a search engine that arbitrarily makes it hard for some sites to be indexed?

Hello, Yahoo! Are you paying attention? Microsoft gets it and you don't. Am I alone in finding this very ... ironic?

*Which I am totally aware may not be all that unique.

Google Earth takes you there, back when

Now this is fun: Google Earth now offers historical map overlays! I just love this. For example, here is a (much compressed) image of the Lewis and Clark map laid right over the Google Earth interface. (Looks like those boys just missed Boulder. Too bad for them.)

Rick Broida on Lifehacker says:

Amberjack opens up the site tour to non-geeks

One of the challenges of launching a new community or social networking site — or introducing new users to an existing site of more-than-modest complexity — is turning people on to the various features and areas. Any community site owner can rattle off a dozen "How do I — ?" questions that came flooding in to them in the first days and weeks of a public launch. (Even worse are the expected questions nobody is asking, because nobody has discovered that cool new widget or feature that apprently is languishing in obscurity.)

Ideally, good design can avoid the more obvious questions like, "How do I sign up?" But even the best-designed social networking site or online community is going to need some sort of introduction to its (hopefully) rich features. After all, new tools, ideas, widgets and usage trends are emerging every day, to the point that new sites almost always reach into feature areas that, for many, if not most, users were until that point largely unknown.

The flip side is that these days even 1-year-old sites and software can seem almost stale. People have come to expect almost any new community or "social networking" (which itself is a relatively new buzz phrase that reflects features that largely did not exist not all that long ago) site is going to offer new frontiers to explore, be they the as-yet-unknown features mentioned above, more common features offered in new ways, or both offered to existing online communities that have been under-served. As someone who develops Drupal-powered sites, which almost always embody myriad powerful features, I can say that, from my experience, this is a challenge that arises with almost every website launch.

The catch-all solution for the challenge of introducing a new site and/or new features to new and prospective community members is the site tour.

Creating a good site tour is always an editorial challenge. The site administration team has to come up with a good, clear, instructive, and hopefully entertaining (or at least certainly not boring) introduction to the site. Usually that consists of your basic page of text with a few graphics. More ambitious or resource-flush groups might produce a video or flash animation that gives an animated presentation. (My own personal bias is to largely avoid these presentations, as they almost always are boring, they almost always take a lot of time to plow through, and they almost always instruct by emulating reality, without any chance for folks to actually do anything — and there's no topping learning by doing.)

Enter Amberjack, a new open source JavaScript library that makes it incredibly easy to create site tours that walk users through the actual site. Licensed LGPL, with a fabulous online wizard that even a Luddite could appreciate, Amberjack is a way to create annotated site tours on actual site pages.

But don't take my word for it. Check out this quick site tour.

Firefox 2.0 not the website breaker like IE7 [updated]

[Update: I removed the direct link to the ftp site because, as small as rare pattern is, every little bit counts, and I don't want to hurt Mozilla.]

Get Firefox
As I write this, it's still not "officially" released yet, but I've just installed Firefox 2.0 after downloading it from the Mozilla FTP site (Mac versions here), and I'm loving it. I've not yet explored the preferences and all that, but so far nearly all of my extensions still work, including the web developer tools, Performancing and weather.

And so far no websites are breaking. Aren't web standards wonderful? I'm good to go. I can keep working (or writing this blog post), and not have to fret about mysterious problems.

Too bad the same cannot be said for users of Internet Explorer 7, which, with its new Microsoft-only quirks, is creating all sorts of new headaches for website owners and challenges for web developers. Some websites won't work at all in IE7.

Why Microsoft has such issues with worldwide web standards, I don't know. At least we have Firefox. Maybe, with these simultaneous releases of new browsers, more people will get fed up with IE and try Firefox. After all, if a browser is breaking websites, why use it?

We Are the Web (and never mind the tights)

[Flash video would not cache. Follow link below.]

More info here [Warning: This is one of those all-Flash "web 1.0-style" websites that starts talking at you by default as soon as the page loads, so you might want to turn down your speakers. Enjoy the cheese.]

Via Jeffrey Zeldman.

Technorati makeover

Technorati's new look
[image: "Technorati's new look", posted by scattered sunshine]

This will take some getting used to....

...but I think I like Technorati's new look. More colorful, less of that ugly green, and a little gel-effect to the graphics. Nice!

As for usability, it's much more personalized, less general, on the home page. But I think that's a good thing.

"Net Neutrality" loses in the House

Net Neutrality San Jose
["Net Neutrality San Jose", posted by jimiinc]

The news is not reassuring for anyone who counts on unrestricted and uncensored access to the internet.

Despite the flurry of phone calls, emails, videos and pleas from a wide base of passionate pro-Net Neutrality constituents, representing hundreds of thousands of people from all political persuasions and hundreds of consumer groups, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives crushed an amendment to safeguard an equal opportunity Internet.

After just 20 minutes of debate on the House floor, Rep. Ed Markey's proposed amendment to the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (COPE), which subsequently passed without Net Neutrality provisions, was rejected by a vote of 269-152. While the voting appears to be largely partisan, with only 11 Republicans voting in favor of the amendment and a surprising 58 Democrats voting against, Net Neutrality, in its short time in the public eye, is an apolitical issue.

I think what jmiller means is that it has been a non-partisan issue, at least when it comes to the grassroots support of "net neutrality." He doesn't mince words:

But Congressional leadership was largely unconvinced by an idea embraced by a diverse list of organizations that would typically be swinging the political pendulum at each others' faces. Think MoveOn and the Christian Coalition. Think the American Civil Liberties Union and the Gun Owners of America. Think Parents Television Council and the National Coalition Against Censorship. Add their support to the very founders of the medium as Vinton Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee stand beside unlikely cohorts Moby and Alyssa Milano.

Even with a constituency like that, whose sudden unity should sound with exponential resonance within the ears of those who represent them, the US House of Representatives ignored it by siding with telecommunications and cable duopolistic entities. The ears of a dinosaur are difficult to reach, but his carrion is easy enough to see - it leaves droplets of green behind it.

Of course, the uproar over "net neutrality" has been largely restricted to the realm of lobbyists and (/vs.?) bloggers.

The mainstream media, especially television and talk radio, which will discuss something as benign as Brangelina's baby or something as polarizing as immigration reform, have been conspicuously silent on the matter, which may account for why the public seems largely unaware of it, as well as the apparent deafness of our representatives.

--Which only goes to show the importance of the internet.

Pamela Heywood on 7c marketing has a news rundown on the "net neutrality" nixing.

jules at tech whisperer looks at the technological trends, including something called IP Multimedia Subsystems ("IMS"), and worries:

With a coalition that includes ninja, anything is possible

It's not very often that you see, the Christian Coalition, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Gun Owners of America, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the American Library Association, and Craig Newmark of Craigslist on the same side of the political fences. (Where's the ninja? Read on....)

Today was a small victory:

The broad, nonpartisan movement for Internet freedom notched a major victory today, when a bipartisan majority of the House Judiciary Committee passed the “Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006″ — a bill that offers meaningful protections for Network Neutrality, “the First Amendment of the Internet.”

20 members of the Commitee (6 Republicans and 14 Democrats) voted for the bipartisan Bill, and only 13 against.

Today’s vote would have been unthinkable three weeks ago.

There's been some skepticism expressed here about "net neutrality." I hate to disagree with PHAT Mommy, but I don't really see how, by passing "net neutrality,"

Congress could actually hinder the development of new and exciting Internet technologies that we are not even aware of yet. Not to mention pave the way for {shudder} taxation.

As someone who works in what I, at least, consider very exciting new internet technologies, I consider the traditional neutrality of the internet as nothing but a help ... and certainly don't see how "net neutrality" is a gateway to taxation. Congress has refrained from taxing the neutral internet so far. If Congress wants to tax, it will tax. I see that as a separate issue.

The biggest opposition to "net neutrality" is organized under Hands Off the Internet, whose flagship members include the big telcos and cellular companies who want to be able to sell exclusive rights to your eyeballs. I'm much to decided on this issue to present their arguments, so I leave it to them to explain.

For what I think is the most amusing explanation of what "net neutrality" is about, Ask a Ninja!....

[Found via Table of Malcontents.]

For a more scholarly take, on MIT's website, timble offers some historical perspective:

Twenty-seven years ago, the inventors of the Internet[1] designed an architecture[2] which was simple and general. Any computer could send a packet to any other computer. The network did not look inside packets. It is the cleanness of that design, and the strict independence of the layers, which allowed the Internet to grow and be useful. It allowed the hardware and transmission technology supporting the Internet to evolve through a thousandfold increase in speed, yet still run the same applications. It allowed new Internet applications to be introduced and to evolve independently.

Have you experienced the Comcast flip-flop?

I'm talking about the DNS hinky jinky that Comcast offers up when a website changes its server (and thus its DNS settings). We experienced that all day Friday: We see the old site; we see the new site; we see the old site; we see the new site; old site; new site; old site; new site; old; new; old; new....

...all via the same ISP: Comcast. From no other ISP have I ever seen the DNS confusion Comcast's plethora of DNS servers have offered up with each and every site migration we've overseen. Even perennial loser Qwest did better with its DSL service, where its DNS updates may have been slow, but once they happened, they happened across their system, with none of this confusing flip-flopping Comcast offers up.

Our sysadmin tells me this is just the way it is because Comcast has so many nameservers scattered all over. It just seems rather ridiculous to me. Sure, fixing how the internet works is something pretty much beyond any single company, and DNS propagation on a global scale really does involve a lot of data going out to a lot of nameservers. But really, synchronizing between computers should not be so difficult, especially among those owned and operated by the same company. I suppose there's just not enough demand for smooth and rapid DNS propagation for Comcast to rectify this problem in their rather large corner of the ethernet.




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