AOL selects Omniture for Web analytics

America Online Selects Omniture To Provide Web Analytics: “Omniture, provider of the most mature and comprehensive technology for web analytics, today announced that America Online, Inc., has selected Omniture’s state-of-the-art hosted web analytics solution, SiteCatalyst™, to provide analytics across all of AOL’s worldwide properties and services.”

Interesting development — and excellent news for the Web analytics service provider industry as it’s a sign the market has matured when a multinational conglomerate like AOL has signed up as a customer. (As an aside, Omniture, formerly known as the MyComputer.com Web portal before it reinvented its business post-dot-com crash, counts eBay, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and VeriSign as customers.)

Josh James, chief executive officer of Omniture, summed up partnership elegantly, “When you consider that AOL is a microcosm of the Internet, we are sending a very powerful message to companies of all sizes that the on-demand delivery available from application service providers (ASP) is mature and ready for prime-time.” My thoughts exactly, Josh.

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Denninghouse files for creditor protection

Dollar store owner Denninghouse seeks creditor shelter; stock marked down 49%: “TORONTO (CP) – Dollar store owner Denninghouse Inc.’s stock lost almost half its value Monday on news that it will close about 80 of its 93 corporate stores and is putting itself up for sale while restructuring under bankruptcy protection from creditors.”

Canadian Press writer Nancy Carr reports that Denninghouse has sought protection from creditors under the federal Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, which is Canada’s equivalent of filing for Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. For those not familiar with Denninghouse, it owns and operates 93 Buck or Two and Dollar Ou Deux stores across Canada. According to the article, it also has 220 franchise-owned stores, which it hopes to sell — presumably to the franchise owners.

Further, Denninghouse said it plans to close 80 of 93 corporate-owned stores and lay off between 480 and 600 jobs. Ouch! That will definitely hurt the job prospects of people in small and midsize communities, where its dollar stores are typically located. Families will be adversely affected, as well. So, let’s hope Denninghouse provides some sort of severance package to laid off and fired workers. It’s the least it can do, for the privilege of having much of its debt erased from its balance sheet by the bankruptcy court.

We have a Buck or Two store here. Although I’ve never been in it and don’t know if it’s franchise-run or corporate-owned, it seems to have some really neat products and is a good retail staple with stuff at rock bottom $1 and $2 prices.

In short, these types of events are never pretty and never fun. I hope Denninghouse is successful in selling as many Buck or Two and Dollar Ou Deux stores as it can, to minimize store closures and job losses.

Update: Thank you to all affected Denninghouse, Buck Or Two, and Dollar Ou Deux employees and franchise owners for their comments here. The response has remarkable. Having said that, new comments are now disabled.

AOL buys Mailblocks

Time Warner subsidiary America Online, Inc., announced today that it has completed the purchase of Los Altos, Calif.-based Mailblocks, Inc., for an undisclosed amount of money.

It’s an interesting buyout because it makes sense for AOL’s long-term strategy of enhancing its web-based services and getting away from its “walled garden” Internet service. Mailblocks’ award-winning “challenge/response” technology for blocking unwanted e-mail should complement AOL’s e-mail service. As well, as AOL said in a press release, they plan to redesign the web-based user interface of AOL Mail to make it more streamlined, faster, and easier to use (similar to that of Mailblocks). The improvements will be phased in over a short period of time and will also enable AOL members to control the “challenge/response” technology, which works by requiring all senders of e-mail messages to answer a question only humans can answer (since 99% of spam is automated and sent by machines) unless they are on the customer’s pre-authorized “whitelist” of senders, through AOL “Mail & Spam Controls” but also through their webmail service. Parents can also control their kids’ spam through AOL “Parental Controls”.

I must say, I’m a Mailblocks paid user and have been since December. Unfortunately, with the advent of Gmail, I have hardly used my Mailblocks account. Nonetheless, it is disheartening to learn AOL will only continue the Mailblocks service “for the time being”. It’s also unclear whether or not AOL will be redesigning its free Netscape web-based e-mail service and boosting its storage capacity to compete better with MSN Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, and of course, Gmail.

Nonetheless, it is interesting to note Mailblocks was founded by Phil Goldman, one of pioneers of the WebTV service (which is now owned by Microsoft and rebranded as MSN TV). Unfortunately for the Mailblocks team, Phil died last year. Mailblocks is less than two years old and has already won accolades from the likes of Dow Jones & Co.-owned The Wall Street Journal and Gannett-owned USA Today. It’s also received the PC Magazine “Editor’s Choice” award, as well as PC World’s “2004 World Class Award” and “Best Buy” award.

New meta-search engine IceRocket reviewed

IceRocket is an apparently new meta-search engine that is privately held. It’s more than your run-of-the-mill meta-search Web site, though. (For those of you not aware of what a meta-search Web site is, it’s a tool that licenses all or part of the search result indices of major algorithmic search engines such as Google, Teoma, WiseNut, and Yahoo!.) It doesn’t just offer Web search results from the aforementioned engines in a loosely organized and compiled fashion (like most do), it presents them in an easy to read and intuitive way. And, it does so without any advertising whatsoever. Presumably, they plan to use that as leverage with schools and universities in licensing their technology and Web site for use by their faculty and pupils. In many respects, IceRocket reminds me of what Google was before Google became a leading Web portal and aggregator of online content.

Some interesting features I noticed, and liked, about IceRocket:

Email A Search – allows users to e-mail three automated IceRocket e-mail addresses to receive search result listings on a given topic. For example, to retrieve Web search results, you would send e-mail to search@icerocket.com with your search query as the subject of the e-mail message. Sending mail with a user-specified subject line to news@icerocket.com and pics@icerocket.com retrieve news headline and image results, respectively.

Snapshots – display small thumbnail images of Web sites to give the user a visual idea of the site’s content. Thumbnails are culled from the index of Amazon.com subsidiary Alexa Internet.

Quick View – creates a mid-size iframe underneath the result title that loads the page without leaving the search results page. It’s similar to a feature offered by the Google Deskbar, except it’s entirely browser based.

Rank – displays the list rank from the various algorithmic indices that IceRocket uses.

As well, of note, IceRocket is being loudly promoted by Broadcast.com founder and outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, as John Battelle mentioned. It was unclear at the time this blog entry was published whether or not Cuban holds an equity stake in IceRocket.