It's official: Google is investing $1 billion in AOL and getting a five year extension on their contract to provide paid search results to the AOL network. So Google will remain by far the most important starting point for search engine marketers, probably for some time to come. Microsoft's AdCenter will provide better demographic targeting for advertisers in the near term (when it launches) but Microsoft will have to build its search traffic for this to matter very much.
Wikipedia is providing "semi-protection" to articles that get vandalized often. New users won't be able to edit these pages. Meanwhile, Wikipedia co-founder Larry and serial entrepreneur Joe Firmage (who has Utah roots) have raised $10 million to create an expert-driven open source encyclopedia called Digital Universe.
Al Gore's Current has a very interesting business model. I've always been a fan of user-generated content business models (at Ancestry.com our most popular databases came from user submissions). Current is turning user generated video into a broadcasting business. Co-founder Joel Hyatt predicts that in 5 years most of Current's content will be available on mobile devices such as cell phones and iPods.
This could be big. I've been wondering if some balance of power might start shifting back to Microsoft; but if Google can pull off an investment deal with AOL and get access to their content and community, then Microsoft is going to continue to struggle with online market share.
I now have a fast full text search in my email. Yahoo Mail beta has a fast full text search engine. Must have come from the Yahoo acquisition of Stata Labs last October. This is extremely useful. Gmail also has a fast full-text search engine; but it doesn't sync with my Blackberry so I only use it rarely. (I do keep all my Google Alerts in it.) So far, Yahoo Mail is the winner, although the CAPTCHA thing could cause me to switch to Gmail as soon as they work well with the Blackberry.
The new Yahoo Mail beta is a tremendous improvement on Yahoo Mail, which frankly I have been tiring of. The new version is so much faster, the interface is much more like Outlook. I like everything except the CAPTCHA system which still requires me as a paying Yahoo Mail customer to enter text from a scrambled graphic image almost every time I send an email. It drives me crazy. But overall, I'm loving Yahoo Mail, and I'll probably stick with it if I can figure out how to eliminate the CAPTCHA stuff. Does anyone know how I can avoid that?
Even if you don't need to raise money, or if you know you probably aren't fundable, you should probably get in the habit of hanging out with and pitching VCs regularly. Why? Because VCs have more meta-data about who is doing what than any one else in the business world. They are on the front line of all the emerging technologies, the best new ideas, and they know hundreds and hundreds of entrepreneurs and funded companies.
Google has released its Google Homepage API and Yahoo recently introduced its Yahoo Widgets Engine (see CNET article). More toys for developers to play with. I remember back in 1999 or 2000 when Homestead enabled its home page builders to use something like 150 "elements" to customize their web sites.