Is Search Dead?

ML Mar 26, 2007

TechMeme over the last few days has picked up stories about the alleged demise of print media. And a SEO/SEM manager from India recently linked to HitTail with a story about the decline of SEO and SEM (search engine optimization and search engine marketing, respectively), in favor of social media optimization (SMO?). He also acknowleged HitTail as the best refuge of search optimizers.

Meanwhile, Viacom is suing Google/YouTube for a billion dollars, 2/3 Google’s original purchase price. Some think it’s a showdown between old and new media, planned by Google while their publicly capitalized war chest is deep. It’s better to get it out of the way sooner rather than later, and force some clarification on copyright laws and fair use. TV Shows are increasingly doing tie-in’s with their Web audience. Cast aside any doubt that the very nature of media itself is changing. New lines are being drawn (blurred), and definitions and business models are up in the air.

Chris Anderson appeared to some as the harbinger of doom for the blockbuster hit, with his book, The Long Tail. Declaring the blockbuster dead was great for the book launch, and many were quick to point out the irony of The Pirates of the Caribbean 2 being the all-time weekend earner. But Chris himself was quick to point out, even at the launch itself, which I attended, that he was not predicting the death of big media, but rather a a recalibration. Blockbuster successes may never reach the proportionately high watermark of ages past (when adjusted for inflation and world population growth), and smaller, independently published works will reach a much wider audience.

Chris Anderson would characterize this as the long tail demand curve moving towards its true shape, representing the actual diversity of tastes in the population. And to navigate the formidable choice that exists, we need better “filters”. For the past many years, the filter known as Google has reigned supreme. In those same years, the searches built into Amazon and eBay are the unsung hero’s of long tail product searches. And today, we see specialized product comparison and opinion searches on the rise, rife with social networking features. The book, The Wisdom of Crowds taught us that sometimes collective wisdom is smarter than any single person, and real-world examples, like Wikipedia is bearing that out. The founder of Wikipedia is now planning a wisdom-of-the-crowd-powered search engine to compete with Google! Isn’t that to be trusted more than some anonymous black-boxed relevancy algorithm?

So, is “Search” dead?

Already?

Just as with the premature proclamations of print’s demise, so it is with Search. Search has at least evolved into a large centralized, undisputed authority (Google, of course). While not a pseudo-governing committee like ICANN or a decentralized distributed system like DNS, Google has indeed claimed this mantle.

And in social media networking, no one has. Not MySpace. Not eBay. Not Amazon. Not Digg. They’re all walled gardens. They’re all incomplete ecosystems. And by the very visibility of this global social-search-filter as the big brass ring that every company wants to grab, no one has the surprise advantage that Google enjoyed in its day. So, the chances of someone somehow reigning supreme are very slim. It’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out battle the likes of which we haven’t seen since the portal wars.

And during all that time, the only truism that will remain is search. Search will be standing in the wings saying “Come back to me. I work so well. And we’re making changes to keep pace with the social nature of the Web. Just click ‘more’ and see.”

One response
  1. Justin

    You can always use google alerts to be instantly emailed when a new blog, usenet, web, or news page with a certain keyword gets newly spidered.

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