ZIG WHEN OTHERS ZAG
Another interesting read this Sunday is this New York Times article titled "How Google Tamed Ads on the Wild, Wild Web".
Unlike the previous post, it's a reminder of the NOT SO OBVIOUS good things done by an Internet company, serendipitous as it is, for web users everywhere. An excerpt below for reader convenience:
"FIVE years ago, Web advertisers were engaged in an ever-escalating competition to grab our attention. Monkeys that asked to be punched, pop-ups that spawned still more pop-ups, strobe effects that imparted temporary blindness - these were legal forms of assault.
The most brazen advertiser of all, hands down, was X10, a little company hawking security cameras, whose ubiquitous "pop under" ads were the nasty surprise discovered only when you closed a browser window in preparation for doing something else.
Today, Web advertisers by and large have put down their weapons and sworn off violence. They use indoor voices now. This is a remarkable change.
Thank you, Google.
Without intending to do so, the company set in motion multilateral disarmament by telling its first advertisers in 2000: text only, please. No banner ads, no images, no animation. Just simple words, which would go either at the very top of the page, above the search results or, alternatively, as the experiment evolved, at the far right.
These "sponsored links" had to conform to strict limits on length and aggressiveness in punctuation and phrasing. If you wanted to claim in your ad that you were the "best," you had to display the third-party authority that authenticated the claim."
The story's writer Randall Stross is right. I had forgotten what the world was like back then, and still is, beneath all our free and automatic pop-up blockers.
The article reviews the history of Google's overlooked contribution, even beyond the tweaking they had done to paid-search idea as envisioned and implemented by Bill Gross with his GoTo.com. It had internal detractors as well:
"Marissa Mayer, vice president for product development at Google, recalled concerns raised during internal discussion about the likelihood of encountering advertiser resistance to such an unfamiliar format.
At one point near the time of the debut, one of her colleagues leaned over and predicted, "You wait, in a month we'll be selling banners."
What's also easy to forget is how much this approach went against the grain of what seemed to work best at the time from a Wall Street standpoint.
Banner ads and distribution deals were all the rage as Google explored it's options. Validation was seen everyday with stocks jumping multiple points on daily press releases announcing yet another banner distribution deal.
Good thing Google was private then, huh?
It does take the benefit of hindsight and half a decade to see the decision in its true context.
Good read for Internet history buffs.