Yahoo To Announce Sale of Zimbra Today

Two years after acquiring Zimbra Open source email unit for $350 million, it is rumored that Yahoo has sold off the property to VMWare. The announcement is expected to be made today. This follows the strategy the company has taken since Carol Bartz took over as head of the company – that of selling or shutting down properties that do not make strategic sense.

All Things Digital point out the sale price of the transaction to be over $100 million but less than the $350 million that was paid for the initial acquisition in 2007.

As always, the spokesperson for Yahoo has declined to comment on the impending annoucement saying they do not comment on rumors and speculations.

[via All Things Digital]

Yahoo Devises Site-Sequence Algorithm To Improve Behavioral Targeting

Ad networks have all along tried to understand user behavior in order to be able to deliver the most relevant ad to the visitor. However, one big problem is that most users who agree to be behaviorally targeted are the more tech-savvy ones; consumers who use a lot of internet. This means that their behavior cannot be generically applied to the rest of the users – those who use internet minimally.

In order to counter this, Yahoo has devised what is known as a Site-sequence value. In a patent published by Yahoo, the company has elaborated on what they mean by site-sequencing and how it will help them in targeting ads better.  The inventors write

“the site-sequence values indicate a sequence from a first site to a second site for at least one user identified with a corresponding engagement level;determining cumulative site-sequence values from the site-sequence values for combinations of pairs of sites and distinct engagement levels;determining likelihood values from the cumulative site-sequence values, wherein the likelihood values characterize probabilities for sequences between sites at distinct engagement levels”

To tell it in simple words, Yahoo studies visits from Site A to Site B from a variety of users to study the general engagement level. It also studies visits from Site B to Site C to see the engagement level. Doing so will let Yahoo know whether or not visitors to Site A be interesting in advertisements related to Site C.

Looks like an interesting concept. What do you think?

Bing Uses Collaborative Search Behavior To Rank Results

If you think the results that you click on Bing search engine is not actually watched by anyone, you  might be wrong. Big Bing actually makes use of your click behavior while delivering search results for other users.

In a patent published recently by Microsoft, the company has sought rights for a technology which will study click patterns of search engine visitors to understand which links are relevant in order to give these results a higher weighing factor for future search queries (of a similar nature).

The inventors of the patent write

“[T]he method may include receiving a search criteria from a user, identifying one or more agents who have performed a search using the search criteria, the agents and the user belonging to the computing network, identifying one or more search results that the agents have previously selected as being relevant to the search criteria, ranking the search results, and displaying the search results according to the ranking.”

While this does sound interesting, there are two questions here:

1. Will privacy advocates cry foul at Microsoft’s attempt to track user behavior?

2. How detrimental can this be to real time search considering a lot of clicks at one point in time might not be relevant later on?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Skype To Make Creating and Sharing Media Presentations Easier

Skype is apparently working on technology to help users create media presentations from the Skype window itself. In a patent recently published by eBay, the company explains the problems in the current form of creating media presentations. The inventors write

“a user must typically purchase conventional media presentation software, which may be expensive, create a media presentation with the conventional media presentation software, which is often time consuming, upload the file for the media presentation, and then post a link to a file for online access to the created media presentation, which may require security features.”

To make creation and distribution of media presentations easy, the inventors are working on an interface that will help them create media presentations from the Skype window itself. They write

“a system for publishing and/or sharing media presentations over a network comprises a service component adapted to interface with a user over the network and one or more distribution channels over the network, a collect module adapted to gather media resources based on user input, a create module adapted to create a media presentation with the media resources based on user input, and a publish module adapted to distribute the media presentation to the one or more distribution channels via the network.”

The inventors say that users may be able to notify the recipients as the documents are published by emailing them or by offering them a distinct URL to view the document or even distribute it by embedding a source code.

How do you think this technology will improve Skype? Please tell us in the comments.

Video CAPTCHA Codes Coming, Thanks To Yahoo

In order to make it much more difficult for spammers and bots to decipher CAPTCHA codes, Yahoo is working on a technology that will replace the current CAPTCHA with a technique whereby characters are superimposed on streaming videos or animations. These codes shall also come with a timer in order to validate the presence of a human.

In a patent published at the US Patent and Trademark Office, Yahoo has revealed a technology that will do just this. The inventor of the patent, Scott Preece writes

“A server may compose a streaming captcha by superimposing a captcha character string on a video. A timer may be set and the streaming captcha may be streamed to the client device. The streaming captcha may be displayed on the client device, and a character string input by a user may be received in response to display of the streaming captcha.”

“For instance, a streaming captcha may be composed by superimposing a captcha character string on a video stream so that the character string appears in the foreground part of the video stream. In an embodiment, the background part of the video stream may vary. Moreover, a character may change progressively into the next character in the sequence of characters in the captcha character string. Or an animation may be generated to display the sequence of characters from the captcha character string.”

It is an interesting technique that can possibly reduce the spam count at least for sometime to come; until the spammers find a way out of this again. But one concern is with countries where high bandwidth broadband is yet to take root. In such places, video streaming CAPTCHAs can highly bring down user experience. What do you think?

Google’s Patented Book Scanning Method Revealed

Google’s book scanning process was patented way back in March of last year. However, till date, we were not able to catch it in action. An article on how the activity is being performed in a Japanese library gives us a glimpse how Google is able to achieve the following:

a. Scan the pages quickly
b. How the text near the curved middle section of the book is captured
c. What is being done to avoid page skipping and accidental capture of the hands of the book flipper

According to an article published on SciTeDaily, the books are not placed upside down as in traditional practice. They are kept facing up and two cameras photograph the two pages. Another IR ray that throws up light in a specific maze like structure captures the text near the curvature in order to ‘flatten’ it to decipher what the text might look when straight.

Google has also apparently patented a music based technology that will give a buzz every time a page is skipped or the book flippers’ hands appear inadvertently.

[via SciTechDaily]

AOL Likely To Extend Search Partnership With Google

Google’s search deal with AOL is likely to continue beyond the contractual period which ends later in the year. This was announced by the CEO of AOL, Tim Armstrong at an annual event held at Citi.

Though Armstrong did not explicitly confirm the extension of the search partnership, he insisted that Google will be the first choice partner and will get the “first dibs” at signing the deal when the current agreement period comes to an end.

However, Armstrong did clarify that this does not mean the company would bend backwards to secure the deal and anything that they sign have to be overall beneficial to the entire company and not just their search business. He also commented on Microsoft’s recent push into search advertising saying this could help them with securing better economics.

AOL has of late, been extensively focusing on their bunch of content portals which the company sees as a viable competitor to the content portals of Yahoo and the likes.

[via WSJ]

Does Google Need Yelp Any More?

You might know that Google was on the verge of acquiring the popular local reviews website until recently when one of the two companies walked away from the discussions.

Today, Google has introduced a simple yet amazingly powerful ‘Near Me Now’ feature. Android and iPhone users who visit will now be shown this link at the bottom of the webpage. Clicking on this link will let you check out all the bars, restaurants, etc. in the vicinity.

The feature is presently only available inside the US and Google has not announced when it plans to introduce the feature for other countries.

[via Google Mobile Blog]

Google Working On Introducing Map-View Advertisements

Quite a few of us would have used the Google Real Estate portal while buying or selling real estate properties. These listings, which are either got through web-crawling or when real estate agents submit their listings are absolutely free. The only way Google monetizes the properties is through text-based advertisements on the sidebar and at the bottom of the map-based listings.

Now, it appears that the company is working on technology that will bring advertisements right into the map. In a recently filed patent titled “Claiming Real Estate in Panoramic or 3D Mapping Environments for Advertising”, the company explains how the ad-bidding system for real estate advertising will work. In the patent, Google writes

“Techniques for identifying groups of features in an online geographic view of a real property and replacing and/or augmenting the groups of features with advertisement information are described. The techniques include providing a geographic view of a property within an online property management system, identifying a region of interest in the geographic view, analyzing the geographic view to locate one or more promotional features within the geographic view positioned upon a real property region, providing a user-selectable link associated with the region of interest in the geographic view, receiving a request for the region of interest in the geographic view via the user-selectable link, receiving data to alter at least one of the behavior or the appearance of the region of interest, storing the data in association with the geographic view, and updating the region of interest within the geographic view based upon the received data.”

The patent talks elaborately about how the advertisers’ dashboard shall work and how the system will work to display the sponsored listings.

The system will apparently work on the basis of how popular a particular real estate property is. It is not clear if the advertisement will appear across a locality or shall be tagged alongside a particular real estate property.

You might remember that this is not the first time Google is introducing sponsored listings on Google Maps. Such ads are already available on generic map views. However, it appears that this will be the first time when these listings will also be made available on real estate listings.

Google and On2 Revise Merger Agreements

Video solutions provider, On2 has announced that their merger with Google has been modified with revised merger agreements. According to a report on TechCrunch, On2 shareholders now get an additional $0.15 in cash for every share that they hold.

The merger deal between Google and On2 that was announced in August of last year got into trouble when On2 shareholders sued the management for selling the company at a lower valuation. Back then, Google had agreed to offer 0.0010 share of Class A common stock in exchange for every share of On2.

Following the revised agreements, Google has said that their stock valuation has significantly increased since the agreement was made and also with an additional 15 cents per stock, the deal should be satisfactory to the shareholders.

The new shareholder meeting is expected to happen next month.

[via TechCrunch]