Creating a Personal Web Notebook

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Udi Manber:

“We need tools that give users the power to decide what exactly to save and what to do with it, but let them do it so conveniently that it does not interfere with their normal browsing. This is exactly what Nabbit is designed to do.”

The interesting thing is, this paper was written by Udi Manber, now Chief Scientist at Yahoo! See the screenshots, don’t they look like QuickBrowse? But there’s more, as seen in the conclusion of this paper:

“Nabbit provides a convenient and natural way to take notes while browsing the web. As the web is becoming the primary interface to information, it is essential to find better ways to capture that information. Besides just copying parts of regular web pages, Nabbit can be effectively used to collect results of database searches, which will be more and more important as more databases are connected to the web. Our next development step is to extend the publishing capabilities of Nabbit, allowing people to easily publish their “notes” in their organizations, intranets, or throughout the web. This will provide another way to collaborate and use the web more effectively.”

(Emphasis mine.)

Where do you think he will apply these ideas? Publishing capabilities will let people integrate their own meta data to the information they find out there. Since Yahoo! has the overall vision of what users do, they’ll aggregate user-contributed meta data and might even fire their surfers.

Open Directory is fighting an old war while Yahoo! is working behind the scenes and under the hood. Look at referral stats to most sites, ODP is far behing Yahoo! and Google in terms of the volume of traffic they send. Newhoo was launched more than two years ago so if it should have been successful, it would have already happened. The googlelized ODP is a quick fix but I don’t know how they will address data integration when it’s going to go mainstream.

Generally speaking, looking at the surface of things and trying to figure out how they work (conceptual retro-engineering if you will) is not as effective as looking at the underlying structure. While Yahoo! is set to do (meta) data integration, I don’t see how their competitors just even grasp it (but then I’m only looking at the surface of things!)
Current obsessions pseudo meta (just keywords, real XML meta will have to wait): Yahoo! is a data integration tool, not a media and they will rule thanks to that vision ; the future would be plain visible if we knew where to look (if you can factor in Hyperion, that is) ; everything has already been explained at great lengths in academic papers years ago but nobody bothers reading them.

04/17/01 updates:

With former Warner Bros CEO Terry Semel as a new CEO, I’m not sure Yahoo! is heading that way. But will the CEO refashion the company, the company the CEO, or both?
More Udi Manber related material: Connecting Diverse Web Search Facilities (1998 paper), Targeting Dichotomy (user and/or topic), Experience with personalization of Yahoo!, Notes about Personalization and Customization.

If user-contributed content was that hot, someone would step in and help Wherewithal (roughly, the ODP with alternative taxonomies provided by category owners). 04/18/01 update: on the other hand, Epinions’ Nirav Tolia says “we were able essentially to outsource some things like category management to our customers.” (read former Creative Director Peter Merholz for more on self-organizing sites).

05/21/01 update: Interview with Mr. Anil Arora, Yodlee CEO (some parts about portals vs. financial institutions).

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