Battelle And Sullivan Grill One Another, Probing Search And Social Data

John Battelle of Federated Media

John Battelle, founder and CEO at Federated Media, and Danny Sullivan, editor in chief at Search Engine Land, took the stage at OMMA Global New York Tuesday to fire off questions, turning the smoking gun on each other to cover sensitive search-related topics.

Both interviewers agree that the mounds of data behind Facebook's wall could become a threat to Google. Searches on the social network site continue to rise, reaching the high double digits, according to Battelle. "There's a huge cloud of data about what interests people and who they connect with," Battelle says. "If you can put your arms around that data to feed a self-service algorithm platform, you will have a big deal on your hands."

Battelle thinks when Sheryl Sandberg left Google to go to Facebook she realized that. He says results from marketers using Facebook have been "extraordinary," because of the ability to specially target consumers at the scale that matters to the brand.

Battelle and Sullivan also touched on Yahoo's recent movement to self-declare the company No. 1 when it comes to the presentation of search. "I look at the companies in the past that have given up their search technology," Sullivan says. They made statements similar to the metaphor Carol Bartz uses.

Bartz's metaphor is based on the idea that having the search technology is similar to thinking a company needs to own the Intel chip inside that controls the computer, but HP and Dell are successful. They buy anyone's chip and they build the computer.

Pointing to AOL and Lycos, Sullivan made the argument that companies typically forfeit success when they give up on their search technology.

When the topic turned to what Google and Microsoft do wrong, Sullivan says Mountain View, Calif. Google doesn't fundamentally understand the fear people have about them -- such as taking all the paper books away and turning them into digital bits and bytes, or collecting and storing information about the millions of searches done on the engine.

Google doesn't understand limits, according to Sullivan. "Now we have our own browser. Now we have our own operating system. And soon we have the Google house, where you will be invited to live and we will monitor everything," Sullivan says. "They are matching Microsoft offering thing for thing."

Sullivan says when people understand how much data Microsoft collects about them through searches and across the Web, the Redmond, Wash. company will feel the backlash, yet it's always Google that takes the heat. Google has the reputation of being a "privacy monster" that needs to be contained.

While privacy concerns are real, many are overstated, according to Battelle. "We need a few juicy murders because of search data before anything is done, and then we need legislators playing to the home crowd," Battelle says "There's some of that, but I think as a culture we don't see it as a violation, similar to other cultures."

Sullivan says when someone requests through the Freedom of Information Act to see all the search activity on a computer for a particular congressman, we will see protection come in over our search data.

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