Technorati: Too little, too late?

Mike Arrington at TechCrunch seems fairly optimistic about Technorati’s latest attempts to refocus the site, and perhaps it would be fair to give the new CEO a little time before we assess his chances of failure, but I must admit that I’m underwhelmed so far. It’s great to say that the site wants to get back to focusing on bloggers, but slapping up a home page that tracks blog posts and creating a “Blogger Central” page doesn’t really do it for me (although Winextra seems to like it).

As for the “Percolator,” I don’t see how it’s really any different from Technorati WTF or Technorati Explore, or any of the other attempts the site made in the past to become the aggregator of choice. Mike says in his post that he goes to Technorati several times a day, and sees himself using it a lot more if these changes catch hold. I’m not sure what Mike is doing there two or three times a day, but I know that I hardly ever go there, and I haven’t noticed my life or blogging suffering as a result.

As far as I can tell, Percolator is no better than Techmeme.com — and in fact not even in the same league really — or Propeller, or even Blogrunner for that matter (now owned by the New York Times). I think Technorati is going to have to do a little better than that to show everyone it’s back on track. And MG Siegler at ParisLemon is right, they could start by trying harder to get rid of the splogs in their links.

Technorati: In a hole but still digging

Mike Arrington noticed the exact same thing I did when I read Wired’s interview with new Technorati CEO Richard Jalichandra. When asked about Techmeme, which just came out with its Top 100 “leaderboard” feature, the new Technorati honcho said it was a “great little site,” but it was clear that he didn’t see it as much competition.

As Mike notes in his post, this comes off sounding awfully high and mighty — and from a company that has surprisingly little to be high and mighty about, when you get right down to it. Technorati has been riddled with performance issues for longer than I care to think about, has launched new features that seem poorly thought out and are already being done better by others (WTF comes to mind), and is in danger of being overshadowed by a website run by a single person, Techmeme’s Gabe Rivera.

Many people have pointed out that Techmeme.com only focuses on a small number of tech blogs, while Technorati covers the waterfront of the blogosphere — and that’s true. But Google blog search already does a far better job of that, despite only having been around a fraction as long. And when it comes to blogs, tech is still a big segment, and Techmeme pretty much owns it as far as I’m concerned (although Digg.com has a chunk as well).

To his credit, Jalichandra responded to Mike’s post in the comments at TechCrunch, and said he didn’t intend to come off as belittling Techmeme in any way. So he’s clearly a good sport. But if there’s one thing the new CEO should know by now, it’s that when you’re in a hole the first thing you should do is stop digging — and his new company is still in one heck of a hole.

Sifry out, layoffs galore at Technorati

It has looked for awhile as though Technorati was having difficulties — and not just technical difficulties but in the executive suite as well, with founder and CEO Dave Sifry writing on his blog earlier this year that the blog-search company was looking for someone to replace him — but now the wheels really appear to have come off. Sifry is leaving the company completely, without a CEO to fill his shoes, and eight people are being laid off.

In his farewall post, Sifry says the company will be run in the interim by a committee of the board (trust me when I say this is rarely a good sign), and that the search for a CEO continues. The Technorati founder says he will continue to be “engaged strategically from the point of view of a director on the board.” According to his post, he will be chairman. As for the layoffs, Sifry says:

“Because we’ll be focusing our efforts more precisely moving forward, it became clear we needed to adjust our expense structure to be more appropriately aligned with our priorities moving forward. So, we had to make the difficult decision to part ways with eight of our staff members.”

I’ll say this much for Dave — he certainly seems to have gotten the hang of the cold-blooded CEO dismissal message. Om notes that one of Technorati’s biggest issues (apart from uptime problems) is that Google is eating the company’s lunch. Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher has some added perspective on the difficulties of the startup game here.

Technorati and the blog search wars

Technorati CEO Dave Sifry has a new “state of the blogosphere” report out, although the first part of it reads more like a “state of Technorati” report — which my friend and fellow mesh organizer Mark Evans and some others believe is a bit of plumage-fluffing aimed at catching the eye of a potential suitor such as Yahoogle or MicroNews Corp.

snipshot_d41bgbrev9nf.jpgBe that as it may, it is still interesting to see how fast Technorati.com has been growing: over 9 million unique visitors in March, up 141 per cent in a single quarter, and double-digit growth every month in page views as well. Not bad. It’s no MySpace, but still pretty good for a blog-search engine. But Dave doesn’t just want to be a blog-search engine — he wants to be a media company. Don’t we all, Dave. But I’m not sure a lot of traffic to Technorati’s tagged media pages really counts as being a media company, unless we are really stretching the definition of the term.

It’s obvious that part of Dave’s post is also designed to cement the impression that Technorati is the leader in blog search, a campaign he has also carried into the comments section of Robert Scoble’s blog, on a post the Scobelizer did about whose search is better. I think Dave should win some kind of award for the number of comments he left on Scobey’s blog, most of which (not surprisingly) are aimed at showing the deficiencies of Google’s search — although to give him full credit, he responds to criticisms from bloggers as well.

So is Technorati the leader? The charts on Dave’s post look pretty good, although neither Hitwise nor Quantcast are infallible when it comes to measuring such things. But as Zoli Erdos points out, Technorati’s lead over Google may not be as large as it seems, and there is clearly still room for improvement — for example, Google’s blog search indexes comments as well as posts. And as I have written about previously, Sphere and Icerocket have their strengths (and weaknesses) as well.

In other words, blog search is still very much a horse race.

Update:

Allan Stern of CenterNetworks says that Technorati shouldn’t be compared to Google’s blog search at all, but to Google proper, which is a fair point. And Jim Kukral wonders in a post on his blog why Mark Cuban has let IceRocket die. Are you going to just sit there and take that, Mark? 🙂

Technorati foot-shooting again: WTF?

So I saw Steve Rubel’s post about Technorati launching a new buzz-tracking, Digg-like thing and the first thing I thought was “WTF?” I know that’s the name of it — or was, since it’s apparently been yanked now — but I meant it in the original blogosphere/instant messaging sense of “what the f**?” Among other things, why would Technorati bother trying to reproduce something like Digg this late in the game?

Unlike some people, I’m totally okay with the name (which apparently stands for “Where’s The Fire?”). It plays off the other meaning of WTF, which could add to the buzz, and I think it’s kind of funny. But why? And not just why launch something that appears to duplicate Digg — like dozens of other copycat sites, many of which use the Pligg open-source Digg platform — but why launch something that seems to have taken its servers down with it?

After all, it’s not as though Technorati has been sailing along as smooth as glass. There continue to be regular system issues, unexplained and sudden down-time, complaints about technorati’s blog-ranking numbers and so on. As someone commented at Darren Rowse’s Problogger: “How about they fix everything else that’s broken on their site before launching a new service?” A fair point.

Update:

The site seems to have re-launched, with an explanation from Dave Sifry about how it works. If I understand it correctly, it seems that Technorati is asking users to write an explanation of why a particular search topic or subject is important, and then other users can vote that explanation up or down.