Opinion of Whitelines.net
The web search market resets its properties
and starts from scratch!
It is not that long ago that the first thing in
my mind was to visit a travel agent or a book store when I
required some information about a certain country. Often I
had to wait until the next day because such questions always
seem to pop up in the evening or the weekend. Nowadays my
brains tell me to "use a search engine" when similar
questions come up. An interesting change of attitude. Do other
internet users also think like that?
A few months ago a friend asked me if I happened to know any
golfcourses in Turkey. Of course my immediate reply was to
use Google and simply type "golfcourses
Turkey" in the search box. She looked at me as if I had just
turned into a little green fellow. "Who the hell is Goegel?"
was all she could say.
Sure, the term search engine is known by a growing
group of people, but the usefulness of search engines is still
not shining through as often as we web-veterans might think.
And therefore the market of web search is a market that is
still to be discovered by millions of people. People that
will get used to the idea that they can use search engines
to find information.
On the supplier side we are dealing with search services that
are still residing in their childhood. And a lot is going
on in the Kindergarten.
Commercial web search is not that old. In 1995
Excite, according to the history
books one of the first search engines, appeared on the web.
Altavista was born a few months
later, in December that year. Infoseek,
Lycos and Webcrawler
followed. The only thing these websites offered was a pure
search and find service. They listed thousands of websites
and helped the early internet adapters to find their way.
Now, six years later Excite is almost bankrupt and Altavista
is cutting down personnel - and costs - in their struggle
to regain their once so great position.
What happened? The early search services understood
what web search was about. They offered plain functionality
and the visitors apparently liked it. How else could the the
first generation search engines evolve to become the most
popular sites on the web? But at a certain moment somebody
decided to turn these fine services into jungle-portals with
a declining search box surrounded by numerous links, advertisements,
banners and - most of times - useless information. The goal
of this move was to lock-in their visitors and earn money
by clickthroughs. Something like "you have to stay, but
if you click through to another site - and leave us - we want
to get paid for it". A few years of success followed
but at the end of the day their visitors got frustrated, left
and stayed away. People realized that simply clicking through
to all sorts of sites - with information they were not looking
for - was a waste of time. New gadgets are nice for a while,
but at the time you start wondering why they tend to end up
in the garbage bucket.
Some internet-gurus argue that the web offers over
hundred times more pages of information that all the major
search engines combined have listed. So the basic question
at the end of the first generation of web search was "How
the hell can noisy and overwhelming portals - once search
engines - help and keep helping the ever growing community
of websurfers to find their way?"
Reset the properties, time for the second generation
The answer to this question is the sole and rational
reason why services like Google are alive and surviving in
times where most competitors hardly can. The demanding market
needs simplicity because it is still not used to selecting
relevant information from an overwhelming source no one could
have dreamed of ten years ago.
Beyond the generation of data and link spitting
portals simplicity turned out to be the key to success. Just
like it was in the early days. The people at Google understood
that again and brought the most important service to find
your way through the web back to its basics. They once again
created a search service that helps millions of people to
find information in the most fundamental way.
In a market segment with a lot of demand new parties
enter. Lookle, Flipper,
Teoma and Wisenut
were examples of companies entering the "simplicity search"
demanding internet market that Google redefined. Even Altavista
finally jumped back to start on november 12th, 2002! The new
services build huge indexes and offer fast results powered
by sophisticated technologies and flavored algorithms. And
the blowing key to success is a Google-like HMTL interface
that could be produced within one man-day of work by an average
web designer. On the short term they will definitely succeed,
because the press-guys like Google related stories and search
freaks love to test and discuss their response times, technology
and concepts. For now Google seems to make money with the
"simplicity search" concept, and the followers still have
to show that trick. The first step towards that goal has been
With these developments the web search market seems
to reset the properties and start from scratch. A new world
of opportunities is recreated just by a simple substitution
of words. Between www. and .com we type Google instead of
Altavista, Wisenut instead of Excite and replace Infoseek
Yes and No. Yes because the simple search engines
with new technologies help the visitors to find their results
smarter, quicker and more efficient. More international and
local search engines with different flavours help consumers
to focus the search process.
On the other hand the index capacities of search engines haven't
grown fast enough to keep up with the exponential growing
number of web-pages. The thousands of search engines on the
planet are still not able to index even 1% of the information
available. The only difference is that you will probably find
more of the same. More offerings to select from. But is that
a real relief? Selecting a golf course in Turkey is easier
from list of two than from a list of thousands.
Searching is and remains to be the most used service
on the web, but there is still a lot to do. A much heard complaint
is the irrelevant (or non-matching) information that is produced
once a search is invoked. It is still not easy to find the
information you are looking for if a search engine produces
numerous pages of output.
If you for example use Google
to find "golfcourses in Turkey" you will be amazed
to find this opinion page in the first 5 results. Ok, this
page contains the words you were looking for, but the content
is entirely useless for golfers. Try Alltheweb
and you get similar results. These simple examples show that
high-end search engines are still not able to distinguish
between relevant and irrelevant webpages. Therefore we believe
that additional algorithms and services like the one offered
by Vivisimo are highly required
to work on a more friendly and better accessible medium.
At Whitelines.net we list - and study the evolution
of - the international and local search engines on this planet.
We help people to search better and to submit their own pages
of information better to these search engines.
In the last few months we saw a growing number
of local search services following the Google way. To my opinion
this is an understandable and healthy development. Apparently
"simplicity search" is becoming a global issue. Something
that is good to know for those that just learned to think
"use a search engine" when they want to find a hotel
in Kuala Lumpur.