Every so often we hear some spin about a new company that is going to set the search and advertising world on fire thereby giving good old Google a run for their money. So far all this has done is to provide even more hot air to inflate the already fat Google balloon to new levels. In the process both web users and bloggers become even more tied into their Google reliance whether it be through their search or their advertising results.
Now Cliff Gerrish over on his blog Echovar says “Search is about to change, you can feel it in the air.” but as much as I really want to believe him the only thing I am smelling is the same old game where Google is getting to set all the rules in what has basically become their monopoly playground. A playground that we as users of search and advertising are being told that all the toys belong to Google and if we don’t like it – tough on us.
Even though Tim O’Reilly might not see Google as yet being the dominant player and that Microsoft might just as well let them become just that
The critical point is whether or not, having achieved critical mass, you take the next step and turn that aggregated data into a system service. If Google doesn’t do that, and the rest of us have done their homework, then someone else will beat them in search because the network effect of the entire system will be greater than the network effect of the search ecosystem alone. If Microsoft understood this, they’d be competing with Google by making search services that are more open, re-usable and re-deployable than Google’s search services. Since they aren’t operating this way, they ought to throw in the towel.
The problem with that attitude is that in the long run the consumers of Google search; and as a by product Google AdSense, will get screwed because there will be no initiative to evolve any part of their systems. As Michael Arrington said in rebuttal to Tim’s first post – MicroHoo: corporate penis envy?
I simply cannot believe that just a little over a decade into the commercial Internet, Tim O’Reilly is willing to say that the search war is over. Did he not read his good friend John Battelle’s book, The Search? He’s not the only expert out there who thinks the war is over – Danny Sullivan argued as much on the Gillmor Gang last week. But I simply cannot believe that this is all we can expect in terms of search innovation.
There are so many areas on search that remain to be conquered. Semantic search. Real language/AI search. The deep web. Media search. Today search basically returns web documents. What I want is for search to complete tasks for me. We’re no where near that today.
We are just getting started in search. To think that search has reached its pinnacle today is like saying aircraft were perfected before World War I. And if just one company were to carry on in aircraft innovation at that point, I doubt we’d have jetliners whisking us around the world today.
Innovation does not occur at a rapid pace without competition. If Google or any company were to control search exclusively, we could expect to see little happen in search technology or business models over even the medium and long term.
As it stands right now in my opinion we have seen no real improvement is the search field let alone from Google. Oh sure we got some cutesy little arrow icons that will let us scroll through ads now and we got some ability to beautify up the ad displays; or as they are testing now some results showing links to discussions about the item.
Cliff pointed out in his post that even for the simplest terms Google returns a supposedly insane number of results
You can measure the quality of Google’s search results by searching for something and reviewing the usefulness of the first two pages of results. For example, the first result for the query “search engine” on Google is a link to “Alta Vista.” Google also indicated that there are 118,000,000 links in the result set. I couldn’t find any simple way to find the last result, the link that Google ranked as the lowest in importance. But since users rarely look beyond the second page of search results, all the rest is a puppet show. The business of Search is the quality of the first two pages of search results.
How is this kind of thing even close to being consider an improvement to search when in reality 99% of it is just useless noise. The same kind of noise that carries over into Google AdSense that unless you are a specifically targeted type of site does you next to no good. Yes I use AdSense here as you can tell by looking at the sidebar and unlike people who seem to think that because I do I shouldn’t be criticizing them I think that is exactly why I; and every other user, should be. Because they aren’t doing a good enough job and they don’t seem to care.
If you take a look at the example graphic with this post or even the live version in the sidebars 99% of the time those ads only reference things to do with blogs not with any of the possible subject matter within any of the posts on the page; and this is with implementing Google’s own suggestions for fine tuning the service.
As Alexander van Elsas pointed out in a post today “75% off all advertisement spent goes to Google!” That is a lot of frikken money so it is no wonder that they can be lackadaisical in any move to improve or even evolve their services. After all why should they when they can be making that kind of money without actually having to improve.
Michael put it best at the close of his post
Microsoft can’t ignore the online advertising market, it’s just too big and important. And we need to be behind them in this effort, because if Microsoft and Yahoo lose interest, we’ll be stuck with a monopoly, and the Internet will suffer. Competition drive innovation. Competition drives prices down. To wish this away is irresponsible.
Not only is irresponsible it also leaves us the users and content producers with less than useful products while a single company continues to pile up the billions.