Quick timesaving tip: this edition of DDD Weekly will be abbreviated, but most people aren’t interested in lots of business reading during a near-vacation week, anyway. To save time on other sites, ignore any stories whose headlines include “of 2011″ or “for 2012.” These are uniformly filler.
Gogo files for an IPO
Gogo in-flight wireless has filed to go public. Gogo is at an interesting inflection point: they’re basically a “dumb pipe” company (i.e. they provide connectivity, not much original content). And yet, they have the undivided attention of a fairly targeted demographic (people who fly and use laptops—or Kindles, or iPads, all of which Gogo can trivially detect—are different from those who do not). And their marginal revenue per dollar of capital expenditures is rising fast. Gogo could be a much more interesting deal than it initially appeared.
- Dan Frommer has more.
Internet Poker Accidentally Partly Legalized
The WSJ claims that a key precedent for banning online poker was misread. The chain of causation: Online is effectively banned by the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act, which targets payment processors who handle illegal payments. But those payments are considered illegal under the Federal Wire Act of 1961. As reinterpreted, the Wire Act applies to a “sporting event or contest,” not to any gambling activity.
Stop Online Piracy Act Threatens GoDaddy, Web as we Know It
The Stop Online Piracy Act has led to a staggering amount of controversy, most of which will be completely irrelevant in a few weeks. (A short version: the bill was designed to crack down on counterfeiters and music pirates, but uses comically imprecise tools to target and punish offenders.) Key developments:
- Many, many respected commentators wrung their hands over how harmful SOPA will be.
- AllThingsD notes that Obama will likely veto it.
- Ur angel Paul Graham has banned SOPA supporters from Y Combinator’s Demo Day.
- GoDaddy (which appears to support SOPA because of a) its private equity ownership, which makes it less sensitive to tech industry PR, and b) its love of shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later customer service), has faced a boycott costing it tens of thousands of domains per day. GoDaddy has done an extensive PR push touting its move from pro-SOPA to neutral.
- In piracy and counterfeiting news, Baidu is no longer an egregious offender, since it’s working with copyright holders.
The net effect of all of this is that the bill will likely be rewritten into a less dangerous form. Since copyright owners have a bigger economic interest in defending their intellectual property (and, as legacy companies, can afford to treat lawsuits and lobbying as a core competency), they’ll still get something. But whatever form the future version of SOPA takes, it likely won’t have the inept implementation that has the tech community up in arms.
- Google expects to integrate Google+ and enterprise apps. Since those Google apps already use Google accounts for verification, it’s hard to see what this would entail beyond Google+ circles for “Colleagues,” “Vendors,” etc.
- Google signed a shockingly generous distribution deal with Firefox, paying $300 million per year to stay the browser’s default search engine. As natural growth on the web slows, the cost of a single percentage point of search market share is soaring.
- Google is finally investing in support for local businesses, perhaps in preparation for ramping up their daily deals.
- Google+ pages are ranking better in search results.
- Bing actually dampens the effect of brand recognition on click-ranking algorithms, although this could be a way to avoid double-counting if they have other pro-brand signals.
- Bing’s Stefan Weitz argues that search is too much of a specific action now, and compares it to logging on to the Internet in the mid 90′s.
- Betabeat ran a bizarre guest post which basically summarizes Facebook’s value proposition for advertisers (i.e. lots of data helps target ads, and friends’ recommendations drive far more clicks than mere targeting). Somehow, running that side-by-side with a list of all the ways Facebook is trying to make their site more interesting (so you’ll share more data and see more ads) makes the whole process look quite sinister.
- Digg has been reborn as a Facebook appendage.
- Facebook is one of the most common search queries according to Hitwise. Navigational search is a growing part of the entire search market, as some interfaces (especially Chrome’s) make it blend in with direct navigation. That means more data for search engines, and a few chances to divert branded searches into in-house or ad-driven alternatives.
Spamming Rich Snippets
Search results are increasingly decorated with “rich snippets”—topic-specific metadata like comment counts (for discussions), time required (for recipes), and reviews. As SEOMoz points out, some of these are very easy to game. A shadier site offers more concrete examples.
Activists Circling AOL
Starboard Value, a hedge fund spun out of Ramius earlier this year, has slammed AOL’s strategy of investing in their display business. They’ve carefully crafted their estimates so the value of AOL’s media business is as close to zero as possible, but they do make a strong case—although they make a better case for spinning off AOL’s access business, which is the easiest to evaluate and which could be run independently.
Vistaprint Pays 13X Revenue to be Less “Print” Driven
Vistaprint is buying Webs, formerly Freewebs, a simple website-building service. (They bill themselves as “free,” but the free package they offer has Webs-run ads, and doesn’t include its own domain.)
Webs’ model is quite similar to Vistaprint’s. Like Vistaprint, they get leads through ads and rankings for terms like “Free Website” (Webs is #1) or “Free Hosting” (Webs is in AdWords). But the free version is bad enough—and the upsells aggressive enough—that those clicks lead to customers. Incidentally, many old pages on Freewebs.com are still up—complete with well-targeted footer links pointing back to Webs.com. If GoDaddy is counting on Webs’ SEO to keep the new traffic flowing, they may run into some unexpected problems.
TripAdvisor is Trading
The largest pure-play SEO company is now TripAdvisor, with a market cap of over $3bn. Like many mature SEO companies, it’s less interesting for its ability to change the world, and more interesting for its quarter-to-quarter ability to arbitrage different traffic sources and ad partners.
Digital Due Diligence Weekly