Authenticating Email

I’m at the point where a quick scan of my spam folder tells me if I want to read anything in it. I may even go days at a time without reading anything, and then just dump the whole folder. I’ve had a few false positives — email that wasn’t spam, but looked it for some reason.

Spam will always be with us, and we’ll always be looking for ways to limit it – and legitimate direct marketing efforts will be looking for ways for their messages to get through. One method gaining popularity is the authentication of email — making sure the From: line is not faked. This doesn’t reduce spam per se but allows recipients to be sure that the sender is really the sender. Since many spammers fake their sending addresses, authentication could cut down on this kind of spam. It would also be another factor in the spam filtering wars.

I see that the the Direct Marketing Association recently announced that they are co-underwriting the upcoming Email Authentication Summit. Yahoo! is also a co-underwriter. Nice to see the DMA involved, and hopefully that will send a signal to all direct marketers that they should learn more about email authentication.

Authenticating Email

X1 Search Engine Takes $10MM

I don’t see it on their web site yet, but search engine company X1 today announced an investment of $10 million, lead by USVP. X1 is the search engine that Yahoo! uses as the base for its desktop search product.

I wonder about the future of desktop search. Between Google and Yahoo providing free integrated deskptop-web search functionality (on Wintel, anyway), and Microsoft and Apple providing instant metadata indexing at the file system (in Longhorn and Tiger), is there a market for anyone else?

Apparently X1 wonders as well. They say the $10MM will go to their yet-to-launch enterprise search product, which I guess aims it squarely in the face of players like Autonomy and Verity.

X1 Search Engine Takes $10MM

The Return of Hummer Winblad

Nostalgia time. Here’s a true story.

Back before the bubble hit — way back in the late summer of 1996, in fact — Accrue (which wasn’t called Accrue yet) was doing its A round of financing. Many top-tier VC firms passed, but many also wanted in, and a number made an offer. Some made two. Hummer Winblad was one of them. One day Ann Winblad visited us in the garage. We do a demo, show her some bad PowerPoint, and sit in our office/conference room and discuss strategy. I was very impressed by how sharp she was. Which is to say, I agreed with her. At the time, the three of us “in management” hadn’t agreed if we were going to go really small (e.g. PC desktop software) or really large (UNIX-based enterprise-class stuff). This wasn’t just about technology, it was about business models. My experience was in enterprise-class software, so that’s what I wanted. Another thought the PC was the right way to go, and the third didn’t have enough data. Ann was able to articulate the reasons why small was a bad idea, and I think she was responsible for the speed at which we decided to aim for the high end. A company turning point from a single visit from Ann.

She also said something else we needed to hear then. One of the team had the idea that we’d build the enterprise app, but to get some operating capital in the door, we’d release a “lite” version first that ran on a PC. Ann cautioned us that a company is often known by its first product, and the cost to erase that image is huge. How true, how true. I knew it from my days at Sun, where Scott hated being called a workstation company. Later I’d hate being referred to as “the company with the web sniffer” when we had half a guy on that and 25 engineers working on real analytics. But I digress.

Around that time, Ann herself was getting a lot of PR as a wizard. I read the articles and thought it was strange that every article mentioned a famous individual she used to date. Whatever.

We wanted her on our board, and we told her so. We already had an offer that was more than we needed for round A, but the investor was willing to take the offer to a level where Hummer Winblad would come in. The only sticking point was the valuation, which was already set. They made an offer. We pointed out (again) what our number was, and convinced our existing investors to bring down the valuation a bit by way of compromise — we used to say “all money is green, but it’s not all the same” — so we could get Ann on the board. They came back with a higher offer, but it was still too low. They were adamant that they had their models and spreadsheets, and would not invest outside of their comfort zone. To them, the whole VC community was jumping off a bridge, but you wouldn’t find them following suit.

Years later, I remember reading some magazine’s Top Something list (investors? movers & shakers?) and in a sidebar was the question – “What happened to Hummer Winblad?” to which the answer was something like they’re sitting out, not making investments, because things are too overheated. The implication was that they were old school investors, and had missed the boat, because other firms were seeing huge returns.

So imagine my surprise when they invested in (the original) napster.com.

What’s the point of this story? Only to point you to an article with John Hummer in Private Equity Week, Hummer: We Are Far From Blowing Up. He admits they made some bad investments, but they are looking forward to some exit events like an Omniture IPO. First I’ve heard of this, but hey, it seems plausible. Josh & co. have been on a roll.

All that backstory just to mention an Omniture IPO? OK, one last thing to bring it full circle. This past weekend, I was reading the newspaper and in it was a “women who are movers and shakers” kind of article. There’s Ann Winblad’s smiling face and accompanying profile, complete with mention of the famous ex-boyfriend.

The Return of Hummer Winblad

New top-level domain names

I see that ICANN has approved new top-level domains .travel and .jobs. A quote from the registrar who will operate the .travel TLD :

I would say there is a great deal of pent up demand for this domain name now.

Really? Where is the demand coming from? Aside from the registrar’s pent up demand to make money, of course. Copyright law pretty much ensures that Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia et al are still going to exist, no matter what their top-level domain names are (or how many they have). Is www.yahoo.travel any easier to remember than travel.yahoo.com ?

I’m not suggesting we do away with topic-specific TLDs. We should create zillions of ’em – why not? These days, when search engines are actually useful, I wonder if top-level domain names have a future. I mean, as an important branding instrument.

(obligatory analytics comment: update your list of TLDs!)

New top-level domain names

Yahoo! Zen

Various news outlets have pointed out that Yahoo! is 10 years old on March 2, and Y! bloggers like Michael Radwin have mentioned some of the festivities. Tonight (supposedly after everyone went home, ha!) the Yahoo! gift fairies descended and distributed, among other things, an oversized commemorative 10-year book.

Throughout the book are facing “WE WERE” and “WE ARE” pages, showing Y!’s humble beginnings and where it is today. But in the last 10 (get it?) pages, there’s one “WE WERE” page that has two photos – Jerry and David – and nine “WE ARE” pages that have … by my calculations, about 6768 full-face photos, and a few hundred partial-face photos. A quick look says these are probably the face shots that appear on the employee directory. And they are in random order. So naturally, you start looking for yourself, and people you know.

A picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, it’s worth over a thousand faces:
WE ARE.

Over the next cube, I heard a co-worker get up to leave, and say to another co-worker, who was hunched over the book:

Goodnight Rakesh. I hope you find yourself.

It was a very Zen moment.

Yahoo! Zen