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Daily Crunch: LinkedIn now supports real-world events

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The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. LinkedIn gets physical, debuts Events hub for people to plan in-person networking events

LinkedIn is bringing its professional networking features into the physical world: The company is launching Events, a (currently free) tool for people to plan, announce and invite people to meetups and other get-togethers.

“I think there is a massive whitespace for events today,” argued LinkedIn’s Ajay Datta. “People don’t have a single place to organize [work-related] offline meetups specific to an industry or a neighborhood. People want to find other people.”

2. Up close with Google’s new Pixel 4

Imaging has been improved across the board, including the already solid Night Sight, Portrait Mode and zoom, which uses a hybrid of digital and the physical telephoto lens. And then there’s Recorder, which virtually every journalist seems to be excited about.

3. Twitter says it will restrict users from retweeting world leaders who break its rules

This is Twitter’s current compromise as it faces criticism for inaction against world leaders who break its rules: It still won’t take down the tweets, but it will limit how users can interact with them.

4. Healx raises $56M Series B to use AI to find treatments for rare diseases

Healx says the new financing will be used to develop the company’s “therapeutic pipeline” and to launch its global Rare Treatment Accelerator program, partnering with patient groups in an attempt to make rare disease drug discovery much more efficient.

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5. NASA extends contract with Boeing for SLS rocket, paving the way for up to 10 Artemis missions

NASA has a new contract extension in place with Boeing, which will cover rocket stages for its Space Launch System beyond Artemis I and Artemis II — including production of the core stage of the rocket for Artemis III, with which NASA plans to bring the first American woman and next American man to the surface of the Moon.

6. Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global is buying a startup that uses neuroscience to boost app usage

Thrive Global is adding a tech tool to its arsenal of cognitive behavioral therapies with the acquisition of Boundless Mind. Originally called Dopamine Labs, the company was founded in 2015 to bring some of the same technologies that social media companies like Facebook used to boost engagement to a broader range of applications.

7. Will unreliable research bury your healthcare startup?

Healthtech founders stand on the shoulders of the scientists who preceded them to obtain reliable evidence. When they promote their own innovations, credibility is a critical prerequisite. But where does credibility come from? (Extra Crunch membership required.)

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MICROSOFT

Why Microsoft’s Cortana Was Almost Called “Bingo”

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why-microsoft’s-cortana-was-almost-called-“bingo”-–-makeuseof

Microsoft almost named its Cortana voice assistant after the Bing search engine. But, the company changes its plans after Steve Ballmer’s retirement.

While Microsoft discontinued the Windows Phone in 2017, its AI-enabled assistant Cortana continued to live on iOS and Android until March 31, 2021. Plus, it still exists in Windows PCs to this day.

In an interview by Alice Newton Rex, former Microsoft Product Manager Sandeep Paruchuri tells the origins of Cortana’s name and what it could have been named instead.

Cortana Was Almost Called Bingo

According to the Big Bets newsletter, Cortana was supposed to be called Bingo. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wanted to name its new AI assistant after Bing in an ode to its search engine.

Ballmer reportedly wanted all its products to be Microsoft-branded. With Bing being a critical part of its AI recommendation system, it’s easy to make the connection with the name Bingo.

In addition, Microsoft’s AI assistant would be able to use its existing legacy branding to help propel its next generation of products.

Thankfully, Ballmer was on his way out, and his successor, Satya Nadella, had other plans. Not only was the AI-enabled assistant given the green light for release, but it also got to keep its much-loved name, Cortana.

The Role of Halo in Cortana’s Naming

Named after the fictional Halo character, also an AI assistant, Cortana was initially supposed to be just a name used in development. Serving as an advisor to the player character, Master Chief, Cortana is an in-game AI that every Halo player is familiar with.

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Acting as a metaphor, Sandeep mentioned how the development team believed she was the perfect metaphor for their goals, an assistant that was always looking out for you.

As featured in Microsoft’s 20th-anniversary documentary, Power On, Halo plays a crucial role in Microsoft’s history. With its release, Halo was a revolutionary title among FPS games, and it played a vital role in putting Microsoft’s Xbox on the map.

The massive PR frenzy that accompanied the leaked name of the AI as Cortana was too much to ignore. With long-time Xbox players and Halo fans behind it, Cortana became one of the selling points of its now defunct Windows Phone platform.

What’s in Cortana’s Name?

They say art imitates life, but in Microsoft’s case, it’s the opposite. Who could have known that an inside joke among developers could lead to naming one of its products after a video game character?

While Microsoft could’ve named Cortana after Bing, its leak saved us all the embarrassment of calling out Bingo out in public. Although Bingo would have been an interesting callback to Microsoft’s popular service, it doesn’t have the same futuristic ring as Cortana.

For this reason, Microsoft’s choice to choose Cortana over Bingo seems to be the better one. Unfortunately, it still couldn’t save Cortana from being shut down by Microsoft for good.

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MARKETING

Microsoft Advertising Launches Health Insurance Ads

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Microsoft Advertising announced a new ad format for Bing Search named health insurance ads. Microsoft said advertisers are already seeing a 4X increase in return on ad spend (ROAS) and lower costs per acquisition (CPAs) with this new format.

Microsoft Advertising Health insurance ads are “intent-triggered rich placements that provide real-time information to consumers and inspire action, all with no keywords required,” Microsoft said. These are positioned on the right rail of the Bing search engine results page running alongside mainline text ads, you can showcase your healthcare plans more prominently than ever.

Here is what they look like:

click for full size

Health insurance ads are dynamically generated based on the data you specify in your feed file, such as your plan type, the organization category, federal registration status, and URLs. The more details you provide in the feed file, the more information Microsoft can include in your ads.

These ads give you:

  • Customized ads: Submit and schedule your feed, and based on the attributes you provide, Microsoft will create relevant, personalized ads.
  • Improved return on ad spend: See more volume, increased click-through rates (CTR), and lower cost-per-click (CPC) rates.
  • Time-saving automation: With no keywords required, the ads are created by feed files that use Microsoft AI automation and are fully equipped for bulk upload.

To sign up for the beta for Health insurance ads, you first need to reach out to your Microsoft Advertising rep or contact the Microsoft support team. Once you are in the beta, you will need to provide a feed. A comprehensive feed with rich attributes such as image URLs and contextual keywords is critical for your success with Health insurance ads.

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Forum discussion at Twitter.

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BING

IndexNow is a Major Change to Search Engine Indexing

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IndexNow is a Major Change to Search Engine Indexing

Microsoft announced IndexNow, a major evolution in how all search engines can discover and index content. IndexNow is open source and open to all participating search engines. When content is published or updated on a website, IndexNow notifies all participating search engines, dramatically reducing the time to indexing.

The IndexNow sharing between search engines will begin on November 2021. There is a limit of 10,000 URLs per day.

The IndexNow protocol is open to all search engines with a noticeable presence in at least one market.

Evolution of Search Indexing from Pull to Push

There are two ways for search engines to obtain web page data: Pull and push.
Pull is when a search engine crawler visits a site to request web pages and “pulls” the data from the server. This is how search engines traditionally work.

What IndexNow does is changes content discovery to the push method where a CMS like WordPress tells the search engines when the content has been published or updated.

The benefit to publishers is that they no longer have to wait for search engines to crawl and discover the content.

Search engines know about it right away and visit the site to fetch the new or updated pages.

According to the Microsoft announcement:

“…historically one of the biggest pain points for website owners has been to have search engines quickly discover and consider their latest website changes.

It can take days or even weeks for new URLs to be discovered and indexed in search engines, resulting in loss of potential traffic, customers and even sales.

…once search engines are notified of updates they quickly crawl and reflect website changes in their index and search results.”

Who is Behind IndexNow

IndexNow was created by Microsoft and Yandex. The protocol is open source and open to all search engines to participate.

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When one search engine is notified of an updated or changed web page all participating search engines will be notified.

“IndexNow is a new protocol created by Microsoft Bing and Yandex, allowing websites to easily notify search engines whenever their website content is created, updated, or deleted. Using an API”

How IndexNow Benefits Publishers

IndexNow benefits publishers because it will reduce crawling demands on the server, search engines won’t need to conduct exploratory crawls to check if web pages have been updated and it reduces the time for content to be discovered and indexed.

Reducing server load helps the server perform optimally without the added burden of redundant serving of web pages that search engines already have.

Ultimately it benefits the world by reducing the energy demands of crawling and indexing and helping to reduce global warming pressures.

Bing’s announcement notes:

“IndexNow is an initiative for a more efficient Internet… website owners provide a clear signal helping search engines to prioritize crawl for these URLs, thereby limiting the need for exploratory crawl to test if the content has changed…

In the future, search engines intend to limit crawling of websites adopting IndexNow.”

Large Companies are Adopting the New Protocol

Microsoft announced that large companies like “eBay, LinkedIn, MSN, GitHub, and Bizapedia” are planning to migrate to IndexNow from the Bing URL submission API.

It is presumed that other larger companies will follow suit because the benefits of the new system are clear.

Because of that smaller companies may wish to consider also adopting the new protocol in order to stay competitive and improve their indexing.

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How Does the New Protocol Work?

There are three ways suggested for submitting URLs.

1. SEO Integration of IndexNow

The first way, OnCrawl and Botify have plans to integrate IndexNow.

2. Direct Submission through API

The second way is a direct submission through an API.

Developers can use an API to automatically submit URLs to IndexNow.

The announcement describes it like this:

“1. Generate a key supported by the protocol using our online key generation tool.
2. Host the key in text file named with the value of the key at the root of your web site.
3. Start submitting URLs when your URLs are added, updated, or deleted. You can submit one URL or a set of URLs per API call.

Submit one URL is easy as sending a simple HTTP request containing the URL changed and your key.

https://www.bing.com/IndexNow?url=url-changed&key=your-key"

3. Integration with CMS and CDNs

But the third way may be how most sites will interface with IndexNow, accessing the new protocol through a function that is native to the core of whatever CMS a publisher uses.

Wix and Duda recognize the benefit to users and are already on-board with plans to provide the new feature to their users.

Cloudflare and Akamai are supporting the new IndexNow protocol as well.

Waiting for WordPress?

While competitors like Wix and Dude have recognized the importance of IndexNow, WordPress appears to be dragging its feet on the new protocol.

Maybe WordPress is going to adopt it, but for the past seven months the core developers have been discussing the proposal with no apparent resolution.

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According to the public WordPress development ticket there appears to not be a decision on it yet.

Nevertheless, Microsoft has submitted the IndexNow open-source code to WordPress for inclusion into the core.

If adopted by WordPress this will make it automatic that a publisher can opt into submitting their URLs via IndexNow.

In response to a question by WordPress core developers, Microsoft disclosed that publishers will be able to choose which search engines to submit their changes and new URLs to.

That means they can block specific search engines from receiving the data about their pages.

According to the WordPress development ticket, the Microsoft representative said:

“WordPress and other CMS admins will be able to able to select which actors in the industry they want to notify, including everybody via centralized services if they want to notify all.”

IndexNow is the Evolution of Search Indexing

IndexNow is a big deal because it’s a major change in how search engines can discover updated and newly published documents.

It benefits publishers with fast indexing and less server load from bots constantly crawling their web pages.

Adoption by major search engines will be an evolution in the relationship between publishers and search engines that benefits both.

Citations

Read the Microsoft Announcement

Announcing IndexNow – Instantly Index your Web Content in Search Engines

Visit the IndexNow website

IndexNow.org

IndexNow WordPress Development Ticket and Pull Request

Instantly index WordPress web sites content in Search Engines

Official IndexNow WordPress Pull Request

Searchenginejournal.com

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