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.
LAND ALERT UNCERTAIN: The CWB was waiting to observe how In-Fa shifts as it moves north to determine when to issue a land alert, a forecaster at the bureau said Residents of northern Taiwan should brace for heavy rain today and tomorrow as Typhoon In-Fa approaches the northeast, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said yesterday. A land alert for the typhoon would be issued depending on the angle at which it moves north today, the bureau said. The bureau on Wednesday issued a sea alert for the typhoon, which applies to ships operating off the nation’s northern, northeastern and southeastern coasts. As of 8:30pm yesterday, In-Fa’s center was 470km southeast of Taipei, moving northwest at 6kph. It was carrying maximum sustained winds of 180kph, and had a radius of 200km. The typhoon was moving
TARGET RAISED: The CECC said vaccination coverage has reached 24.35%, while Premier Su Tseng-chang said the government hopes for 30% by the end of July The government has signed a contract to buy an additional 36 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, 1 million of which are to be delivered in the fourth quarter, the Executive Yuan announced yesterday, as it updated its vaccination target to 30 percent coverage by the end of the month. The two-year deal with the US company covers “prime series” vaccines and future booster shots to protect against SARS-CoV-2 variants, Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) quoted Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) as saying during an Executive Yuan meeting in Taipei. In the two weeks since vaccine registration opened, more than 9.8
NEXT ROUND: About 1.44 million people who have registered online to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine are to get text messages today to book a vaccine appointment Strict border control measures, including a ban on foreign nationals entering or transiting through Taiwan, are to continue, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, as it reported 10 locally transmitted COVID-19 infections and no deaths. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said five of the cases tested positive during isolation or upon ending it. The sources of infection of eight cases have been identified, one remains unclear and one is under investigation, he said, adding that 87.8 percent of the people infected with COVID-19 since May 11 have been released from isolation. Chen said an
STAY VIGILANT: Although a level 2 alert would raise the limit on indoor gatherings to 50, people should still wear masks and practice social distancing, the center said A nationwide COVID-19 alert is to be lowered from level 3 to 2 on Tuesday, but strict border controls would remain, the government said yesterday. The level 3 alert in place since May 19 is to end on Monday, with a level 2 alert in place from Tuesday until Aug. 9, the Executive Yuan said. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), told a news conference in Taipei that over the next two weeks, people should still wear masks at all times outdoors, except while eating or drinking, and practice social distancing. The maximum