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Webstractions - Web Development & Design News

Commentary on new events and information concerning web development, design practices, search engines, SEO, tools, news story headlines and what's new at WebStractions.

Every now and then, there is a forum post worth bookmarking and a Search Engine Watch thread that compiles an excellent list of link-building resources is such a post. The post, and the comments that follow, provides for a very comprehensive list of tools, articles, forum threads and knowledge bases that can be found on the Internet.

Good job Nacho.

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Blogger's posting interface and some other pages are soon to be made available in other languages says Biz Stone in today's Google Blog. As time goes on native speakers of French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Brazilian Portuguese, and Korean will see an increasingly familiar version of Blogger in their own languages when they sign in.

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If Satan himself came up to you on the street and says, "I am not Satan", would you believe him? Of course you would. That is exactly what MSN Search is trying to tell us now, that MicroSoft is no longer "more evil than Satan".

MSN Search just pushed out their latest round of automated relevance improvements and they changed the results. Now neither Google nor Microsoft rank in the top 10 any more for this particular query. Quote "[their] algorithm changed its mind".
"Just so you know (since I’m sure you’ll ask), this wasn’t a targeted change. We are constantly refining our ranking algorithms to produce the best, most accurate results, so changes like this happen all the time."
Nick does not believe it, thinks it is just a PR stunt.
"I just cant help thinking that all this is just designed to get tons of search related blogs posting about MSN every 5mins...

I'll be damned if i'll have the TW homepage and rss feed choked with this silliness, it's boring the crap out of me already."
Let me be one of the first to blog about Nick. LOL. And one other thing:
If thine RSS feed offends thee, pluck it out.

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With the new release of Drupal 4.5.0 not too long ago and an elegant theme to match, the aging server was coming under a lot of stress. The Drupal website experienced a large increase in popularity with more than 10.000 visitors per day and 70GB of traffic/month.

Now they have migrated to a new server and they're happy as all get-out. I would be too.


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Is AOL on the way out? I hope not, because I will surely miss those coffee cup coasters of theirs.

America Online, which earlier this year stopped signing up new broadband customers, is telling existing broadband subscribers in nine Southern states that they must find a new broadband carrier by Jan. 17. The affected states are Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Those customers who do not switch to a new broadband carrier by that date will have their accounts revert to AOL's traditional dialup service.

AOL has been telling its customers that they can switch to high-speed broadband service offered by BellSouth Corp. for a special promotional rate.

AOL's $54 monthly broadband service is relatively expensive and they expect to phase out existing broadband customers in the rest of the country in a similar manner over the next year.
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Pinder has a great tip for suppressing the target='_blank' property of anchor links which opens new windows. Apparently, the new release of Firefox advanced preferences for this no longer works, it has been overridden by a new advanced preference.

To turn it on, go to about:config and set browser.tabs.showSingleWindowModePrefs to TRUE.

Alternatively you can add user_pref('browser.tabs.showSingleWindowModePrefs', true); to your user.js file.

A new option will appear in Tools>Options>Advanced>Tab browsing. You can then force links that open in new windows to open in the current window or a new tab instead.

Pinder says that it's an experimental option for now, so it might be a little buggy, but it works for the most part.

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Nathan Weinberg of InsideGoogle has launched a new blog, InsideMicrosoft. Expect to see the same style of reporting on MSN Search (and other related material) with the same vigor as he does with Google.

InsideMicrosoft has the following feeds available:
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For $50 and a passing grade of 75% on an entrance exam, you can become certified as a Google Advertising Partner according to an article at DMNews. The program is similar to those run by Microsoft and Cisco for developers and engineers, but requires search marketers to prove their knowledge of Google advertising policies and product details.

Along with passing the exam, marketers must handle at least $1,000 in AdWords spending over a 90-day period to qualify for certification. Google Advertising Professionals receive a logo to display on their Web sites and marketing materials. They also get access to My Client Center, a centralized 'master account' for managing different client accounts.
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MSN Search has a new blog so they can keep you all up-to-date on what's happening with their new beta search product. Yes MSN Search is only in Beta right now.

They are having problems with Firefox compatability, although I have not really seen anything problematic with it yet. I think it had to do with the blog itself and not the search layout. I could be wrong on that.

Also some technical difficulties are being worked on:
In the process of making our new MSN Search beta broadly available we experienced some technical difficulties that caused the beta service to function improperly or be unavailable for some users for periods of time. We're working through these issues one by one and you should see service availability and quality improve soon if not already. We apologize for any inconvenience.
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Mozillazine is reporting that Mozilla Firefox 1.0 appears to have been downloaded over one million times on the day of its release, based on preliminary data. My emphasis on the word "appears".

This time around there were more unofficial mirror sites. Some mirrors were activated on the fly as the main servers came to an almost dead stop from the rush to download the new Firefox release. Actual totals are slowly filtering in.

I noticed that the SpreadFirefox site was shut down temporarily last night and throughout the early morning hours to reduce bandwidth and server load, you were greeted with a simple text message informing you of this.

Blog posts and information was soon released informing users of alternate download sites. One existing mirror site, and probably the best known, is CNET's Download.com. They are reporting only 33 thousand downloads over the past week, of which may include prior versions such as RC2 and RC1. Not known if this is an updated total yet, it does seem a little low.

Oddly enough two other browsers surpassed the Firefox total last week at Downloads.com, Avant garnered almost 170 thousand and Opera with a little over 100 thousand. Possibly they are getting a little more attention at Downloads.com with all of this Firefox publicity.

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Over the next several weeks, Gmail will introduce POP access to all users. To make sure the feature is fully stable, they're giving users access to POP in phases. IMAP access is still not supported.

You will know when POP access is available to you when a New Features! link appears at the top of your account, along with a Forwarding and POP tab on your Settings page.

Screenshot of Gmail POP Setup

To enable POP, follow the directions in the Gmail Help Center for How do I enable POP?

There is a list of email clients with links to configuration instructions for each client. Clients include Outlook Express (Windows and Mac), Outlook, Entourage, Eudora, Netscape Mail, Apple Mail, Mozilla, and Thunderbird. Clients not on the list should be easy enough to configure by following instructions from one of the clients in the list.
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Microsoft is planning to introduce its long-awaited Internet search engine on Thursday November 11th, a person knowledgeable about the announcement said.

Word of the introduction of MSN Search was leaked on Tuesday (November 9th) after Microsoft began phoning reporters offering briefings for Wednesday. A company spokeswoman declined comment on the announcement.

There is also an Associated Press article that appeared in the ABC News Business section in regards to this. It stated (incorrectly) that Microsoft will introduce a desktop search product by years end. I think they have their wires crossed on this item ... they were first with the report, but did not proof it well enough.

Either way, this is going to liven things up quite a bit and I cannot wait.

UPDATE: The AP article is correct. A Desktop Search product should be out before the end of the year. Thanks to Danny Sullivan for pointing that out.
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Bloglines has announced the addition of the Bloglines Firefox Center. The announcement is due in large part to the continuing success of Firefox and its abilities for RSS discovery.
"Over the past few months, we've watched users steadily switch away from Netscape and Internet Explorer to Firefox. Back in July, while Firefox was still in beta, it had grown to over 5% of our traffic. Today, Firefox represents 20% of requests to Bloglines."
The Bloglines Firefox Center is a one-stop shop for getting started with Firefox, RSS, and Bloglines. They created the Firefox Center to support the many Bloglines members that have switched to Firefox as their preferred browser.

From the Firefox Center you can download the latest version of Firefox, find a list of the current extensions that use Bloglines Web Services (currently two, Bloglines Toolkit and LiveLines), plus several links to learn more about Firefox.

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An InfoWorld article is reporting that the Mozilla Foundation is considering desktop search integration for Firefox. Chris Hofmann, the Mozilla Foundation's engineering director says, "There are a variety of companies that are working on that technology and we may just try and identify a way for Firefox to plug into a variety of desktop search engines and enable users to pick and choose." Some of the possible desktop search vendors include X1 Technologies Inc., Copernic Technologies Inc. and Blinkx.

The bigger news however is that the Mozilla Foundation also wants to place Firefox in PCs through OEM (original equipment manufacturer) deals with PC hardware vendors and to continue to sharpen the product's pop-up ad blocking technology. This would be a major push into Microsoft Internet Explorer territory by far.
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I have absolutely no idea what this is about. None. Ask the people at Zorgloob. I just find this image very intriguing.
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Eric Baillargeon has just reported that the total number of pages in the Google Index has increased to over 9.85 billion. This represents a 33 percent increase in 10 days time. He offers before and after screenshots which clearly show the increase.

Eric maintains that Google makes a big move every November. Last year was Florida. In November of 2001, Google had started indexing Word documents. He has not yet ascertained what caused such a big jump in the index this time around. Whatever caused it, is huge, to the tune of 3 billion plus pages.
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InsideGoogle reported on the first-ever SEO Toolbar which assists site owners with tracking backlinks for all the major search engines and if the page is listed in DMOZ. The toolbar is offered by Garry Grant's Search Engine Optimization, Inc.

Some people may know Garry. He's played a guitar since the age of 19 and has appeared with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi. His career in web development started when he founded DAG Web Studios about 10 years ago. He also holds a degree, Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, from Monmouth University.

So does all of this make for another must-have toolbar? Not really. Garry is an entrepreneur with a lot of savvy. As a self-professed leader in the SEO Industry, this toolbar (as most are) is just a gimmick.

It boasts that it will provide you with data from 9 search engines. In all actuality, there are only 2 that you need to concern yourself with, Yahoo and Google. All the rest are derived from these two.

One thing that sticks in my craw about this toolbar is that you are required to submit an email address and your Zip Code before you can download it. That is enough for me to pass it up.

Better Alternatives are Available

I use a service, Uptimebot, which will deliver the exact same results as this toolbar. Here are the results for this site Webstractions. I am sure that a bookmarklet could be fashioned to pluck the current page from the address bar and post it to the form. If anybody creates a bookmarklet, please let me know and I will blog it for you.

If you really want advanced linkback analysis though, I recommend Axandra's (maker of Arelis) Link Popularity Check. It is a free desktop program that checks the link popularity status of your web site on several search engines and compares it to other web sites on the Internet (for example your competitors).

Link Popularity Check is completely safe to install on your system. It will not change the system registry and it will not make any unauthorized connections from your system. The software also includes an uninstaller.

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In a few WebmasterWorld threads, GoogleGuy has shed a little more light onto search engine ranking placement (SERP) at Google. Some of the factors have been known to exist for quite some time. Some have been debated, and are now confirmed, albeit he stops short of saying how much weighting is applied to those factors.

GoogleGuy answered a direct question regarding the fresh indexing of a single page and whether they are factored into the SERPS. His answer was, "typically yes, for on-page factors." He also added that on-page factors do include outbound links from the source page as well.

Major Google updates (not toolbar PageRank) which affect SERPS may be a thing of the past. It appears that they are of a rolling nature, or "regular flux". GoogleGuy also says that "off-page factors can be updated asynchronously" such as inbound links to a source page which will affect the ranking of that page.

Asynchronously is not elaborated on by GoogleGuy, he does not answer the question on "how quickly" these changes take effect. I assume this would depend on how quickly their bots find the off-page factors and when they run their processes against them. Although he says that they're "well out of the monthly update mode; it's much smoother to update the index incrementally over time."

All of this points towards a higher level of link analysis. To some extent, the burden of this could rest on MapReduce which is a programming model and an associated implementation for processing and generating large data sets. Google has used 900 separate instances of MapReduce on the production index as of September of 2004. A majority of these instances occurred during the incremental backlink updates that started to appear as early as mid-June.

The extent of such analysis is not really known. However, it is readily apparent that they are able to process a fresh crawl and update the index for on and off-page factors very rapidly. It is also apparent that PageRank does not play so much a part in the incremental updates, for that is a process that is conducted separately and it is anyone's guess as to when.
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I guess in honor of the official release of Firefox, Google has put up an updated start page for it. Pretty cool looking.
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It is now official Mozilla Firefox 1.0 Released, the first major new product release since the Mozilla Suite's 1.0 in June of 2002.

Builds are available from GetFirefox.com or from the FTP server and release notes are also available.

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In case you missed it, Search Engine Radio has archived Brad Fallon's interview with David Burns, CEO of Copernic Technologies and former CEO and founder of FAST.

David discussed Copernic's view regarding Desktop Search, which is a key focus for the company. Desktop search refers to searching for files, documents, and other items that reside on your desktop computer. Essentially employing a web search engine approach to searching files on your computer. The Copernic Desktop search product also searches desktop-resident email and will search web-based email in the future.

The audio archives for this show are in three segments:
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For the third time this week, Blogger Status is reporting database server problems. This time it is determined that there are a number of queries running on this server which are adversely impacting performance. Previous hassles included performance issues and aging hardware which prompted them to migrate data off of the troubled server.

UPDATE: It is reported that they have solved one problem with the database servers by pushing out new code which should help. But now there is another issue. They have to temporarily disable stat data collection. They plan to restore this functionality in the short term but have needed to stop collecting the information for now in order to stabilize the database servers.

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In what is hopefully the first of many cases, a CNET News article reports that a North Carolina man and his sister became the first two people convicted of a felony for sending fraudulent unsolicited commercial e-mail -- otherwise known as SPAM.

Jeremy Jaynes and Jessica DeGroot were convicted in a Virginia court Wednesday of sending AOL users millions of unsolicited commercial e-mail messages with falsified routing information to evade AOL's filters. Jurors recommended that Jaynes receive nine years in prison and fined DeGroot $7,500, according to news reports. A third defendant, Richard Rutkowski, was acquitted.

Jaynes, who used the alias Gaven Stubberfield , was ranked by watchdog group The Spamhaus Project as the eighth-most prolific spammer in the world when he was arrested last December.

DeGroot and Rutkowski appear to be let off too easily. Both Jaynes and Rutkowski were facing up to 20 years in prison and $10,000 in fines under the indictment brought by Virginia attorney general Jerry Kilgore in December 2003. Kilgore said the state also would seek to recoup profits from the spam.

Here is a mug shot of Jaynes, complements of MugShots.com. They describe him as a "dorky-looking geek".
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A Slashdot poster sets off another round of Google badmouthing-goodmouthing rants over alleged censoring of Abu Ghraib Prison images (along with Lynddie England images).

The discussion got a response from Sergey Brin (via Chris DiBona):
"In short, There is no censorship here. We are embarassed that our image index is not updated as frequently as it should be. Expect a refresh in the near future.

In the meantime, you can just search on Google Web Search for abu graib photos to get plenty of what you are looking for."
Some of the comments were very harsh and accused Google of being a Bush puppet. DiBona was a little more terse in this regard:
"Please don't ascribe some dating issues on images to some political motive, we take this kind of stuff very seriously. We have to comply with the law, but there is no law yet on the books reguiring that companies in the United States take down pictures that might be embarassing to the current administration."

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... or corporate environment either. In response to a proposal to the Snohomish School District (SDS) to mass deploy Firefox on their school's computers, the District's IT Department head fired back a few reasons why Firefox cannot be deployed on such a scale -- no guarantee of support, interoperability with other installed software, browser settings that cannot be locked, Group Policy configuration and no means for mass deployment and/or maintenance of solutions across a network.

The proposal letter was sent by someone who calls himself Spencer, a student who attends one of the schools in the District. The letter, quite frankly, was not so much a plea to the District to use Firefox, but rather a general chastising of Internet Explorer. Readers of young Spencer's post at SpreadFirefox relating his experience not only chastised MSIE, but the IT persons follow-up response as well by calling her (sometimes erroneously "him") ignorant and "brittle".

It is obvious that none of these people read SpreadFirefox's call to enlighten, rather than enter into this mudslinging type of schoolhouse debate. This will not win over any supporters, but will probably have the opposite affect when it comes to School Districts -- they do not do feasibility studies all that often -- and this District (Snohomish) will not be looking at Firefox for quite some time now.

Ironically, young Spencer would have had a better chance at convincing the District to the South of him in Seattle. While this District is much larger, it operates in a dissimilar fashion. Each School within this District is independently Administered. While SSD has a centralized IT Department, the schools have more power over what goes into them and can over-ride their decisions when it comes to the labs themselves. Here is another tip, the IT Department installs Netscape as a default browser, if and when they do get involved with physical installations.

SpreadFirefox's mission to spread the word about Firefox, IMO, should rein in these types of ill-targeted stabs in the dark. You give one IT head a negative impression and that will spread quickly from one District to the next. These people communicate with each other across District lines almost on a daily basis. You are going to need a more coordinated effort to crack these nuts. Each District is different and will require multiple gameplans too.

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In preparation for the official November 9th release of Firefox 1.0, RC2 builds are now available.

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Turn your website and a Gmail account into an image gallery with Goollery. You can upload pictures from a website and they will automatically be stored in your gmail account.

Requires PHP, libmailer (gmail-lite project) to connect to GMail, ImageMagick and, of course, a Gmail account.
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In a WebmasterWorld thread many Webmasters are reporting heavy Googlebot activity. One member's Server was inadvertantly shut down with a Denial of Service (DoS).

One member had to resort to temporarily banning the rampant Googlebot IP address (69.249.66.51) off and on to control the indexing of his site. Googlebot 2.1, the new bot in town, had been requesting 20 pages per second says this member.

GoogleGuy responded with "the crawl team is looking into it. We don't want to crawl so hard that you have to take action like that."

I agree, this is a little overboard and out of control. Perhaps what Google needs to do is institute the same robots.txt directive as MSN and Yahoo have -- the Crawl-Delay -- which will allow individual site owners to have control over how fast their sites are crawled.

The crawl-delay is easy enough to use. With three major players in the arena now, and all thirsty to keep their indexes fresh, some type of regulation is definitely needed.

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It is confirmed by Nathan that he will appear on Search Engine Radio this coming Tuesday (Nov. 9th) at Noon EST.

Nathan is asking us to let him know what topics you would like them to cover. (Google topics of course ... hehehe). You can call in Live at the time of the show at 1-888-327-0061 or email them to show[at]seoradio.com in advance.

Good luck Nathan!

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