Dan Bricklin is rallying entrepreneurs to reclaim their visibility online. Observing that AOL and Google searches favor big companies, the spreadsheet inventor started the SMBmeta Initiative (SMBmeta.org). It advocates that small businesses attach a standardized tag, coded in XML, to their domains. Bricklin plans to offer tag-making tools free online. Tags would enable consumers and search engines alike to zero in on local companies, Bricklin says, making it easy to find "a Spanish-speaking plumber in your Zip code." Sounds good, in theory. Problem No. 1: Try getting thousands of entrepreneurs to act in unison. Problem No. 2: Since many sites sell placement in search rankings -- which tags may undercut -- search engines may ignore the idea. A Google engineer confirms that his search engine is aware of the tag but does not yet recognize it.
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