Stand-up comedians have a saying that "you're only as good as your last gig." The same goes for computer technology. What you have to assume is that someone somewhere has a business plan which involves, er, attracting all your customers. \nTo date, there are only two known defensive strategies. One consists of "locking in" said customers so that they have to be very determined to go elsewhere. This is the Microsoft Way. The other is to make your next product even more sensational than its predecessor. \nTo date, few companies have managed this trick. \nThe US$64 billion question at the moment is whether Google, the world's favorite search engine, will manage to pull it off. \nIts spectacular success revealed that Internet searching is a very big business. Something like 550 million search requests are entered every day worldwide (245 million of them in the US and 77 percent through Google). \nGoogle has shown that selling advertising based on searches can be very lucrative. And it is estimated by industry watchers that the annual paid-placement advertising revenue generated by Web searches will reach about US$7 billion by 2007 (as compared with US$3 billion last year). \nIf Google's current share of searching continues, that means the company could look forward to annual revenues of nearly US$5.5 billion in three years' time. \nAh, that magic word, "if"... The great thing about capitalism is that the prospect of annual revenues of US$5.5 billion tends to concentrate minds. So far, in relation to Google, those minds have been focused in two directions. \nThe first involves trying to get a slice of Google's action. The company is heading for a stock-market flotation this year and -- if industry rumors are to be believed -- this could be the biggest thing since Netscape went public on Aug. 9, 1995. \nNetscape shares were conservatively priced at US$28, opened at US$71 and went as high as US$74 in the most frantic day's trading since the Wall Street crash. \nSomething similar could happen with Google. And this, in turn, might have wider implications, because it was the Netscape launch that triggered the technology boom/bubble. \nIt was what awakened non-techies to the notion that there might be money in that Internet thingummy. \nGiven that the stock market is slowly shaking off the rueful technophobia that has afflicted it since 2001, could Google's flotation triggers another avalanche? \nThe second direction in which search-related revenue concentrates minds leads to the quest for technology that is better than Google's. \nA lot of brainpower is being focused on this question. \nSome of us are old enough to remember when AltaVista was the best search engine there ever had been. Then one day Google was launched and we never used Alta-Vista again. But all that means is that Google is the new AltaVista, and the question is: what lies around the corner? \nThere's no doubt that Google represented a great advance. But there is no such thing as perfection in this business. Surveys indicate that almost a quarter of users don't find what they're looking for in the first set of links returned by a search engine. \nThat's partly because, in the words of MIT's Technology Review newsletter, "the precious needles of information we seek are buried under a haystack that grows by some 60 terabytes every day. [A terabyte is 1024 gigabytes.] And it's why fierce competition in the search industry is certain to continue, especially as companies implement a host of new technologies, such as natural-language processing and machine learning." \nAlready, there is interesting potential competition for Google. \nThere's Teoma (www.teoma.com), for example, which uses the existence of subject-based communities to home in on an answer to a search query. Then there's Mooter (www.mooter.com), which uses ideas from psychology, software and neural networks to create a ranking algorithm that learns from the user as a search progresses. \nAnd there are several research efforts aimed at finding ways of searching the "deep Web" -- that is the huge reserve of documents buried in corporate and official databases which only become published Web pages if a particular search query asks for them. \nFurthermore, of course, there is Microsoft. There is always Microsoft. Bill Gates has made it clear that he sees searching as Microsoft's business. \nThe company has a huge research and development effort devoted to it. \nAnd it plans to use its, er, "infrastructural advantage" [monopoly] to build natural language searching into "Longhorn" -- the next release of its operating system, due next year or 2006.
SOLIDARITY WITH TAIWAN: MOFA thanked US lawmakers for introducing the bill, which aims to clarify the content of UN Resolution 2758 and questions Beijing’s claim to represent Taiwan in international organizations A bipartisan coalition of US congressmen on Monday introduced legislation that aims to counter China’s claim to represent Taiwan in international organizations. “For too long, Beijing has distorted policies and procedures at the UN and related bodies to assert its sovereignty claims over Taiwan, often to the detriment of global health and security efforts,” US Representative Gerry Connolly said in a news release. “This bipartisan legislation ensures that we stand in solidarity with this critical US partner,” he said. Connolly cosponsored the bill with the three other chairs of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus — US representatives Albio Sires, Mario Diaz-Balart and Steve
STANDING TOGETHER: The allies highlighted the importance of cross-strait peace in Japan’s first statement with the US on Taiwan since it switched diplomatic recognition The US and Japan on Friday vowed to stand firm together against an assertive China, and to step up cooperation on climate change and next-generation technology as US President Joe Biden made his first summit a show of alliance unity. Waiting nearly three months for his first foreign guest due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden told Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that his country enjoyed “our iron-clad support” on security issues and beyond. “We’re going to work together to prove that democracies can still compete and win in the 21st century,” Biden told reporters, affectionately calling the Japanese leader “Yoshi.” A joint
F-5E CRASH: The body, which was found in a reef crevice near Nanren Fishing Port in Manjhou Township, was wearing Captain Pan Ying-chun’s uniform and name tag The body of a fighter pilot who had gone missing following a mid-air collision last month was yesterday found near a fishing port in Pingtung County, the air force said. A search-and-rescue team found Captain Pan Ying-chun’s (潘穎諄) body in a reef crevice near Nanren Fishing Port (南仁漁港) in Manjhou Township (滿州), the air force said. Pan was one of two pilots involved in the accident in which two single-seat F-5E jets collided as they were changing formation during a training mission. The other pilot, Lo Shang-hua (羅尚樺), ejected from his aircraft after the collision, but he did not have any
LARGEST EVER: Police raided an illegal greenhouse in Hsinchu County and detained two men, and were looking for the operation’s suspected mastermind Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥) yesterday presented the results of a raid on an illegal cannabis farm in Hsinchu County, where police seized more than 1,600 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of NT$500 million (US$17.76 million). It was the largest cannabis seizure in Taiwan, officials said. Speaking at a news conference at the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau Taipei Field Station, Tsai reiterated his ministry’s tough stance against illegal drugs and said it would continue to crack down on cannabis. Police on March 19 raided a greenhouse in the hills of Guanhsi Township (關西), a bureau official said. Two men,