Google Spreadsheets Gets New Embedding Feature

By Nathan Weinberg

Take a look up there, that is a Google Spreadsheet, courtesy of Ionut. Alex. He reports that Spreadsheets has added publishing options for your spreadsheets, letting you publish them as HTML, PDF, XLS, ODS, CSV, or a feed, or you can go right ahead and embed it in your site or blog. That is a pretty cool feature, and will no doubt be used by a bunch of bloggers to easily show detailed charts on their blogs.

There’s a little more as well:

Google Spreadsheets shows you all the revisions of a spreadsheets, so it’s easy to go back to an earlier version. And there are two new functions that use information from the web:

* GoogleFinance(”symbol”, “attribute”) that returns information about a stock. GoogleFinance(”GOOG”, “price”) returns the current price for GOOG.

* GoogleLookup(”entity”, “attribute”) that returns answers to simple questions like: population of Italy, Jay Leno’s date of birth, that usually appear at the top of search results in GoogleLookup(”Italy”, “population”) will return the population of Italy.

(via LifeHacker)

UPDATE: Philipp writes that they’ve also released an API.

November 30, 2006 by Nathan Weinberg in:

links for 2006-11-30

By Nathan Weinberg
Posted: by Nathan Weinberg in:

Google Answers Is Closing

By Nathan Weinberg

Google has announced that Google Answers, the very first non-search project from Google, is closing down forever. Come the end of the year, Answers will stop accepting new questions, although the old pages will remain up as archives.

Why is Google shutting down Answers? Given their huge number of servers and the low usage of Answers, Google could have kept it up practically for free, so the only reason I can think of: Google is sending a message. Closing down Answers, a losing project that was started with an idea by founder Larry Page, Google is telling its employees that any of their projects can be killed, no matter what. It’s a great call, and may have a positive impact on the projects Google engineers come up with.

What made Google Answers a failure? Yahoo Answers. Yahoo’s product is about a year old, and has 50 times the market share of the four-year-old Google Answers. Hell, Microsoft’s lesser-known Windows Live QnA, which went public only in September, was tracking to beat Google by early next year (and sooner now, obviously). Hitwise shows off the traffic stats.

Philipp wonders if Google is incapable of creating successful community sites. I’d say that, with the exception of Orkut (and even that is mostly in Brazil), Google just can’t match Yahoo’s success with creating communities. That’s why Google had to buy YouTube, and we’ll all be watching to see if they don’t screw that one up. Hopefully Yahoo keeps playing to its strengths, and release more sites like Answers that take advantage of its large userbase and grow large communities.

YouTube On Verizon - Services For Suckers

By Nathan Weinberg

Yesterday, YouTube and Verizon announced a deal to provide a selection of YouTube videos to V Cast subscribers for $15 a month. Thomas Hawk has the best reaction:

Okay, here’s his real reaction:

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! That’s a good one! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Hillarious!

Verizon are a bunch of greedy pigs and just like their excessively priced song downloads this one will flop as well. I’m disappointed that YouTube is involved in this fiasco. Hopefully they got a big chunk of money up front for their service rather than a revenue share which will be peanuts if anything at all.

Verizon’s deal is awful for so many reasons:

  • The price - YouTube is free, man
  • V Cast - it isn’t available for everyone
  • The speed - YouTube isn’t fast enough on my computer, you think my cell phone isn’t going to be worse?
  • The screen - You think people complained about YouTube’s quality in the past. Hoo boy!
  • The selection - The only videos available will be those specifically chosen to be on the service, killing any hope of being viral, as well as limiting the selection

Yeah, thank god these initiatives tend to die miserable, early deaths. I think I’ll stick to screen-scraper services that let me get internet video on my phone via the data connection I already pay for, or the wifi feature I bought my phone for.

I think the mobile carriers have got it all wrong. It is well known their strategy, since growing the market and gaining market share is very difficult at this point, is to gain more money per user by offering up extras. They seem to think that the cell phone is destined to be a closed-system platform, where they can sell ringtones, games, music and other services, not understanding that simple technology curves are moving all phones towards powerful mobile web browsers.

The smart way to make money on mobile phones is (a) unlimited data plans (b) extra calling services, like the ones T-Mobile has been rolling out (c) free services, designed to provide incentives (d) the phones themselves, by making it easier for customers to pay for handset upgrades. Your customers don’t want to buy ringtones, when they know other phones can do it for free, and they don’t want to by music that they already own.

Microsoft gets that the big money and power is in the platform, not the software. Trying to sell all sorts of little crap to your customers is a way to make your platform less popular, which is why you don’t pay to unlock Solitaire on a new PC, and why Apple gives away half its software with a new PC. Sell your customers the things they want (and yes, most customers would pay for better customer service at this point), and leave this crap out.

This is just a rant against Verizon, by the way. They’re the most backward-thinking of the major mobile carriers, with their paywall, incompatible network, and prohibitive pricing. Have you seen their latest slogan, “It’s the network”? They’re damn right it’s the network, because it isn’t the phones, or the pricing, or the plans, or the service, or the internet…

As for YouTube: Good for them. They’ll make a few bucks and walk away happy.

Posted: November 29, 2006 by Nathan Weinberg in:

Another Nathan Weinberg Has Died

By Nathan Weinberg

Arguably the second-most famous Nathan Weinberg on the internet, Nathan Weinberg, 89, of Pikesville, Maryland, has died. Nathan died in Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital on Saturday of pneumonia. Nathan was known on the internet as vice president of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, a $2 billion charity foundation, from 1990-2002.

From the Baltimore Sun:

The son of immigrants from the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, Mr. Weinberg was born in Baltimore. One of seven children, he grew up in a home without indoor plumbing, according to his eldest son, Donn A. Weinberg of Owings Mills.

Mr. Weinberg was drafted into the Army shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

During World War II, he served in military intelligence in the Army Air Forces, rising through the ranks to become a lieutenant. He served in Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines.

Nine months after a blind date that included dinner and a visit to a nightclub, Nathan Weinberg married the former Lillian Shapiro in 1953.

“I thought he was so good-looking,” Mrs. Weinberg recalled yesterday. “The first thing I noticed were his beautiful blue eyes.”

While he was running the transit companies, Nathan Weinberg joined the Weinberg Foundation as a trustee in 1960. The foundation, which was started by Mr. Weinberg’s brother and sister-in-law, helps the poor, the elderly and Jewish communities worldwide. Shortly after Harry Weinberg died in 1990, Mr. Weinberg became the foundation’s vice president.

In 2005, the foundation reported assets of approximately $2 billion, according to its Web site. That fiscal year, the foundation made more than 400 grants totaling more than $98 million.

Sounds like a great guy. I have no relation to Mr. Weinberg’s family (my Weinbergs came to this country over the last thirty years from Venezuela, and before that, Europe), but saw mentions of him many times when doing vanity searches. When I first got into blogging, I rejoiced as a I saw my name taking top spots in searches for my name away from Nathan and his Foundation. Nowadays, I occupy all top ten spots, but Nathan’s Foundation I’m certain helped a lot more people offline than my musings on Google have for those online.

Now, the second-most famous Nathan Weinberg is the author of the 1990 book “Computers in the Information Society”. I think I should make it a mission to track down that author and find out what he is up to. I wonder if I can find a copy of his book in a library?

by Nathan Weinberg in:

links for 2006-11-28

By Nathan Weinberg
Posted: November 28, 2006 by Nathan Weinberg in:

What’s The Top Embedded Video Player?

By Nathan Weinberg

If you liked the dueling video services, then here’s something real interesting: Eight different embedded players on a single page, served up as a comparison. While I can’t tell who has the best video quality, there are a few things I can say:

  • Revver’s player is the worst. It offers no extra features or interesting ways of doing them, while packaging it in a way that seems desperate to look cool.
  • Blip’s player is the most boring, ripping off the Quicktime web player.
  • Vimeo has something that should be offered as an option by the other players: No interface at all. When the video plays, everything just dissapears. I wouldn’t like it all the time, but it should be an option.
  • MyHeavy’s player could be the best, if not for a few mistakes. It has lots of useful stuff, but the buttons are too tiny and the player has a space-wasting frame.
  • MetaCafe’s player might have been my favorite simple player, but that top bar is annoyingly tricky, and the animated logo is a stupid distraction.
  • YouTube’s player is still the gold standard of simple players, doing everything it needs to, staying out of the way, and being distinct and well-branded. You know you’re dealing with YouTube whenever you see it.
  • Google’s player is like YouTube’s, but with a typical Google twist: It’s ugly. Otherwise, easy second place.
  • MSN Soapbox’s player is the best advanced feature player, with tons of options that are well-laid out and not annoying, and a great look. I just wish they offered a simple player as an option as well.
  • Players that had a functioning seek bar, one that, when I clicked it while the video was playing, moved the video to where I clicked: zero. All eight fail on that function. Wow.

There are good things about each embedded player, but a lot of flaws as well. Players either fall into the simple or advanced camp (and middle of the road attempts are failures), with YouTube and MSN Soapbox the best of each. I want the opportunity to choose from several players, either on the publisher or the user side, since both models have their benefits. While YouTube’s player has its flaws, it is the king of the hill right now, and what it does, just plain works.

I’d love to see some Photoshops of the ideal player, one that preferably included an easy mode switch between simple and advanced. The simple player needs a play button and seek bar, some form of volume control, branding, a full-screen mode switch, and a link to the original video webpage, while the advanced player should have things like (but not necessarilly all) metadata, statistics, playlists, ratings, downloading the video, getting the video embed code, and bookmarking it.
(via Download Squad)

YouTube VS Google Video VS Revver: Showdown!

By Nathan Weinberg

Something’s gone wrong at Chris Pirillo’s blog, because some of the major video sharing sites are engaged in an all out-brawl! To understand, just click play on all three videos, as quickly together as you can:

Wow, that was crazy… Now, if only Chris could find a way to add MSN Soapbox, and do it all as a 2×2 grid, and maybe have the “characters” do things that affected the other videos, that would be perfect. I could watch this all day.

Hmm… Is there a way to loop them?

Posted: November 27, 2006 by Nathan Weinberg in:

Google Checkout’s Free Money Includes Some Charity

By Nathan Weinberg

Not only is Google being charitable with its money via the Google Checkout program, giving you $10 towards purchases of TV’s, DVD players, sweaters, and lots of other stuff, but they’re also giving money to charity. Google unveiled its “Cyber Monday” promotion, which includes some new merchants that accept Checkout, including a few charities.

So, instead of saving ten bucks on that new video game, you can give $30 to the United Nations Foundation, the Acumen Fund, TechnoServe, Global Green USA, and Campus Climate Challenge, and Google will add ten dollars to your donation. That’s a much better use for all those Google dollars, and may in the end represent more money given to charity than the Google Foundation has given in over a year. This, I actually like.

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Google Gifts AdSense Publishers With Digital Frame

By Nathan Weinberg

As it does this time every year, Google has sent out its holiday gifts for top earning AdSense publishers. This year’s gift is reportedly a cool one: a digital photo frame, complete with a 3.6-inch LCD that handles JPGs, audio (MP3/WMA/WAV, including recordings) and video (ASF). The frame uses internal and SD card memory, meaning you can drop in the memory card from many popular digital cameras, and runs off of battery, USB, or outlet power.

I so want one of these. I’ve earned a bunch of money from AdSense this year, so hopefully I’ve been a good enough boy to get a gift from Daddy Google. Otherwise, I’ll have to stare at my Google Base rock for another 12 months.

UPDATE: Barry posted a photo of the frame. Whoever sent him the photo probably doesn’t have children around, I’m guessing:

by Nathan Weinberg in:

Google Remains In Lead, Specifics Confusing

By Nathan Weinberg

All the major stats services have weighed in on market share in the search industry, and Google is (predictably) still holding onto a huge lead. Problem is, no one can agree how huge that lead is. Take a look at the basic rundown chart, courtesy of Search Engine Watch:





























What’s responsible for the differences? Well, some of it is philosophy. NetRatings counts Ask only as, not other Ask properties (like Excite, iWon, and My Web Search), which is why their numbers are smaller. HitWise appears to be giving almost all of AOL’s market share to Google (since Google powers, giving AOL almost no presence.

Still, that doesn’t account for all the difference. If, somehow, someone caught up to Google, and we were relying on these numbers, we’d be (to use a comic book phrase) spit out of luck. On the same day we’d see three different articles: Dethrones Google and Google Neck-and-Neck

Google Extends Lead Over

Who the hell are we supposed to believe? Someone please give me a reason to pick one over the other (I’m a fan of Hitwise, since they have the best blog, but that’s neither here nor there), so we can just declare a winner.

The one thing to watch: According to comScore and HitWise (and NetRatings, if they counted everything), pulled ahead of AOL in September, taking fourth place. Nice!

SEW’s got lots of charts and analysis, going back an entire year.

As Greg Linden points out, Microsoft just keeps losing market share. Why?

Posted: November 26, 2006 by Nathan Weinberg in:

Google Checkout Up 30%, But Why?

By Nathan Weinberg

Hitwise reports that downstream traffic to Google Checkout is up 30% in the past four weeks, with the number one store, by far, being Buy delivered 18.3% of Checkout’s traffic, with number 2 Dick’s Sporting Goods way behind at 4.8%. Of course, Google’s major “Free Money” promotion is the biggest thing driving people to use the service, and with it running until the end of December, we’ll have to wait for January numbers to see if there is a big drop-off.

Paypal could be considered the nearest competitor to Google Checkout, but Paypal is still dependent on eBay for the majority of its traffic: for the week ending 11/18/06, 70% of Paypal’s upstream traffic came directly from eBay.

Both and Jockey sent 16% and 7% of their respective traffic to Google Checkout last week, which seems like a very high conversion rate. Both sites are promoting the $10 off Google Checkout offer on their home pages, which indicates that the offer could be increasing conversion rates. The other sites on the chart are only showing the offer on the checkout page itself.

Google, with its deep pockets, is effectively buying traffic for its Checkout service, and smart retailers are using the offer to increase their conversion rates, but it could be a long time before it reaches Paypal’s traffic levels - the market share of visits to Paypal was 96 times greater than for Google Checkout last week (week ending 11/18/06). Possibly Google’s promotional efforts that will launch on Monday 11/27/06 will help.

Google Checkout Free Money coverage:

Google Tops PayPal In Money Wasting War - 11/22/2006
PayPal 2 Google: We Can Throw Twice As Much Money Down The Toilet! - 11/20/2006
Is Google Desperate With Checkout? - 11/03/2006

UPDATE: Hitwise reports that in the week following those stats, Checkout rose another 158%, with Toys’R'Us now leading the pack.

Posted: by Nathan Weinberg in:

Google 1988

By Nathan Weinberg has “archived” how looked in 1988, complete with ASCII porn, a less complicated version of Tetris, and proof that Drudge has been using that annoying flashing light forever. Funny stuff.
(via Ronen)

Posted: November 24, 2006 by Nathan Weinberg in:

CBS Getting Mileage Out Of YouTube

By Nathan Weinberg

CBS issued a press release, boasting how the content it uploaded to YouTube has been very popular. Since they announced a partnership with the video sharing site on October 18, CBS videos have been viewed 29.2 million times. CBS is happy that, not only are the videos being viewed a lot, increasing exposure for various series, but those series are showing some gains in viewership on RegularTube.

Ratings for the network’s late night programs, in particular, have shown notable increases. CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman” has added 200,000 (+5%) new viewers while “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” is up 100,000 viewers (+7%) since the YouTube postings started. Although the success of these shows on YouTube is not the sole cause of the rise in television ratings, both companies believe that YouTube has brought a significant new audience of viewers to each broadcast.

CBS seems to be the first company to realize that having a ton of stuff on YouTube is great for business. Hopefully they’ll start putting up content from their many other properties as well. I can’t say I like how they insist on controlling everything (they take down clips by other users, sometimes replacing them with their own), but it does result in a lot of great stuff on YouTube, and all of it is legal. Keep it up!


Posted: November 23, 2006 by Nathan Weinberg in:

Cingular Announces Treo 680 For $199

By Nathan Weinberg

Cingular is the first carrier to release the Palm Treo 680, which I covered last month at Digital Life. The 680 is cheap compared with the various 700 series Treos, just $199 with a contract, featuring similar specs to the Treo 650, but with an updated design and loads of improvements. The phone will be available starting tomorrow.

From the announcement:

All-in-one smart device with phone, email, messaging, Web, camera, and more1
Palm’s ease of use
Just the right size, with a large screen and an easy-type keyboard
Integrated address book, calendar, memos, and to-do list
MP3 player and streaming audio, such as Internet radio1
3-way conference calling that’s a snap to manage
Speakerphone and speed dial
Supports Word, Excel,® PowerPoint® and PDF files
Palm OS® platform runs over 30,000 applications, from games to productivity tools
64MB user-available memory—add up to 2GB more with an expansion card3
Bluetooth® and infrared wireless technologies
VGA camera/video recorder

Product Specifications:
Operating System Palm OS® 5.4.9
Processor Intel® PXA270 312 MHz processor
Screen 320×320 pixel TFT touchscreen that displays over 65,000 colors
Wireless GSM™/GPRS/EDGE class 10 radio
Quad band (850/900/1800/1900 MHz)
Communications Bluetooth® 1.2 wireless technology, Infrared (IR)
Memory 64MB non-volatile flash memory available for user storage
Camera VGA camera with 2x digital zoom and video capture support
Battery Removable, rechargeable lithium ion battery with up to 4.0 hours talk time
and up to 300 hours standby time
Expansion slot Support for MultiMediaCard, SD, and SD I/O cards
Size & weight 4.4” (h) x 2.3” (w) x 0.8” (d); 5.5 ounces

Press release after the jump.

by Nathan Weinberg in:

Thanksgiving Day Search Doodles

By Nathan Weinberg

Happy Turkey Day, dear readers! Hopefully, everyone (who isn’t boycotting the holiday) will enjoy a feast tonight with the people they love the most.

Here are today’s search engine logos celebrating this day of thanks… giving:



Ask doesn’t go all out, as in the past, but does put a, uh, thing, on their front page:

Philipp has an image showing the different Google Thanksgiving logos over the years. Funny, I never realized there’s a theme there:

In this year and past years, Google always shows the turkey as being served food, not being the food itself.

UPDATE: Barry has Dogpile’s logo:

Also, check out Search Engine Roundtable’s logo.

Hello, HDTV

By Nathan Weinberg

I just pulled the trigger on what could be the best purchase I’ve ever made: A 51-inch Hitachi HDTV. Thanks to Best Buy’s early Thanksgiving specials, I was able to get this TV for just $700. Any New York-area bloggers interested in coming over for the Super Bowl or some Xbox 360, the invite is open :-)

The Hitachi 51F59 51″ CRT Rear-Projection HDTV weighs a whopping 151 pounds, but is only 21 1/2″ thick, making it barely double some smaller, cheap LCDs. It is only two inches thicker than my previous 20″ TV. Besides the 16:9 widescreen, it features 117 points of adjustment, perfect for guys like me who like to tinker with everything until it is perfect, a 24-watt speaker that can be used as the center channel in my 5.1 system, 1 HDMI input, 2 wideband component inputs, 3 S-Video inputs, 5 A/V inputs, and 1 fixed/variable audio output. It has a built-in HDTV tuner, important for me, and support 1080i resolution. It’s even my first TV with picture-in-picture.

The TV should be arriving Wednesday. Anyone have any tips or experience with it or similar models, let me know. It is still in stock at with free shipping, and will be available at the $700 price in store tomorrow and Saturday.

A bit of warning: This TV looks atrocious instore, due to poor settings out of the box. I actually spent a few minutes changing the settings at Best Buy earlier this week, and it got a hell of a lot better.

Some other great Black Friday deals, available online right now:

30-gig iPod with video - $233 with free shipping
RCA 52-inch HDTV CRT (no tuner) - $700 after mail-in rebate
Polaroid 15-inch LCD HDTV (no HD tuner) - $130 after rebate
Westinghouse 19-inch LCD HDTV - $200 after rebate

TDavid links to a pretty useful site for aggregating all the various deals sites,

Posted: by Nathan Weinberg in:

Google Books Gets Some AJAX

By Nathan Weinberg


Google announced an update to Google Book Search, adding some AJAX to improve your free book searching experience. The main thing, a typical AJAX feature, is that pages don’t reload when you turn pages in the book. Pages appear one above the next, infinitely scrolling (well, until you run afoul of copyright restrictions, at least). You can choose between one page and two page views for out-of-copyright books (one page only for in-copyright), and just drag your way up and down, like you were reading it in Adobe Reader.

They’ve done a great job cleaning up the interface, with book reading pages almost entirely filled with the book (very much resembling Google Video, in fact). There’s even a full-screen mode switch to completely remove the entire interface and focus on just reading. The book contents page appears to contain even more information, including live links to chapters, related books, and highlighted pages, as well as tags.

The official Google blog details all of the changes.

Posted: by Nathan Weinberg in:

links for 2006-11-23

By Nathan Weinberg
Posted: by Nathan Weinberg in: