Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

"Beyond the Search Box": The White Pleather Honeypot Smackdown

Perusing AOL’s leaked damn-the-journalism-full-speed-ahead business plan, BoomTown was a little late to the Microsoft Bing event this morning called “Farsight: Beyond the Search Box.”

But things had certainly been cooking with gas when I walked into the meeting room at the University of San Francisco, which the organizers had decked out in white nubby rugs, white pleather couches and those white egg-shaped chairs found only in 1970s decor.

Schweeet!

First up was well-known investor and entrepreneur Peter Thiel, poo-poohing Microsoft’s prospects of ever making money in search.

“It’s difficult to produce a new search company,” said Thiel, noting that even with a growing market share it’s curtains for Bing, given the huge fixed costs. “As far as I can tell, it’s still not breaking even.”

Ouch!

By the way, Thiel sold semantic search engine Powerset to Microsoft for upward of $100 million in 2008 to help it, you know, get ahead in search.

Way to insult your money-bearing hosts!

Then, moderator Vivek Wadhwa harangued the panelists from Google, Microsoft and Blekko in the session “Who Will Win the Spam Wars?”

And they say I’m a snarky moderator! Wadhwa is snarktastic!

Wadhwa did not like any of it–not crappy content sites that sully Web search, not the efforts the companies were making to fix things, not the vision the trio had of the future.

And, by the way, Microsoft was not ever going to make money off all the company’s efforts.

Way to insult your hosts! I like this event!

Of course, what everyone was interested in was a smackdown between Google and Microsoft, given that the search giant accused the software giant of stealing its results today.

In an excellent, if exhaustive, post by Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan, Google said Bing was cheating by lifting its search results, which Google said it had proved via a “honeypot” sting operation.

“I’ve spent my career in pursuit of a good search engine,” Google’s Amit Singhal told Search Engine Land. “I’ve got no problem with a competitor developing an innovative algorithm. But copying is not innovation, in my book.”

The very presence of the word “honeypot” in any story about search algorithms is superb, in my book, even though this “controversy” is pretty much a he-said-he-said geek-off.

Google’s Matt Cutts kept up the cheater pressure at the Bing event, in a short debate with Microsoft’s Harry Shum, who was not having any of it.

“It’s not like we actually copy anything,” he said.

Translation: Actually, we do borrow, just like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg did to the Winklevii, resulting in a social networking behemoth that will soon take over all search and make this whole debate moot.

Microsoft is rubber, Google is glue. And Facebook, which was not present at the search event, is the real sticky honeypot.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik