A new wrinkle in the search landscape emerged this morning with the announcement that Ask.com is now offering Compete traffic stats inline for the sites on results pages. (Disclosure: Compete is an RWW advertiser.) This move itself may not shake up search but it does beg the question, how much room for meaningful innovation is there in search and to what degree is Google vulnerable in the market it so dominates?
Ask.com comes up with interesting features all the time that tend not to get a big reaction. This move’s impact is mitigated by the facts that Compete traffic data is limited to US site visitors and the stats aren’t yet available on Ask’s fantastic blog search. None the less, I think it’s an interesting case that demonstrates just how open the future of search remains.
In addition to offering value adds like traffic data, search by semantic or natural language meaning is an option for search that’s widely discussed. Social search is yet another. Researchers at Stanford posted an interesting study this week on the role social bookmarking could play in augmenting search.
I find myself consistently impressed with a lot of what Google does but the fact remains that Google web search isn’t changing much. They are folding all the various search engines into one, but the experience isn’t changing dramatically. Does it need to? Check out this rant below from Doc Searls, on recent episode of the excellent NewsGang Podcast. Searls calls Google, “the Windows of search.”
I think Google is vulnerable in search. Google hasn’t changed search in 7 or 8 years, they are fat and happy. There are so many ways search can be improved. Google is way too locked into Larry and Sergey’s original vision, which has hardly changed at all; it’s not the only cannonical way to do search. There’s so many ways to granulate search and make it conditional and do a much better job. Google’s search is lame in a lot of ways, it’s very minimal – it’s just become common but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. It is the Windows of search.There’s a huge vulnerability there. I was talking to someone who used to work at Google who said that the reason Google Blogsearch has been moribund for years…is because Larry thinks that Google ought to have one search experience and that search experience should never change. Since Larry wants it that way, Google Blogsearch is just sitting there and may actually go away. It’s inexcusable, I don’t care how much research they are doing – they are blowing smoke up their own ass if they think that there is only one good experience we can have with search. It is not enough. There is enormous room for other people to compete with that…Get out of your shell where you think the whole world is these companies and what they bring to the table now.
Ask’s integration with Compete is just one small example of what’s possible. Searls doesn’t take into consideration Google’s mindshare in the passage above but I agree with the basic premise that some major new feature, algorithm or user experience could prove very compelling for searchers at large. Here at the ReadWriteWeb network, we’ve got a whole blog about alternative search engines.
Google isn’t the most lovable brand in the world and no one can be the coolest cat in school forever.