why mahalo, techmeme, and facebook will never replace google

while scoble’s earlier commentary on why he thinks mahalo, techmeme, and facebook will kick google’s butt in four years may provide us an interesting look at where the future of search may lie, it certainly isn’t correct in its central hypothesis. in fact, the argument he makes is not far from the older argument that wikipedia will kill google (google share of search has increased over 130 percent since that claim).

truth of the matter is that the wikipedia relies on google for financial and hardware/bandwidth support. not only that, but over 50 percent of wikipedia’s traffic comes from google (over 1.6 billion users, which accounts for around 2% of google’s outbound traffic).

let’s look at the 3 contenders mentioned by name and if they stand a chance against google individually, and then let’s see if they stand a chance if they pool their collective strengths.

contender number 1: mahalo

the first reason why mahalo won’t affect google is the same reason wikipedia hasn’t been able to do so. rich skrenta, the founder of the open directory project (dmoz.org) has elaborated in much detail on why mahalo must rely on search and seo for success. furthermore, acknowledging that the top 10,000 search queries make up 24 percent of all searches, mahalo plans to cover only those queries. what this means is that mahalo will serve google results for 76 percent of all searches.

that said, scoble correctly points out in his example that mahalo is great for some verticals (i.e. if you want to book a cheap flight or buy an hdtv)

contender number 2: techmeme

techmeme works off a list of only a few thousand sites that it monitors continuously and then constructs a ‘what’s happening on the web right now’ page that changes in real-time based on linking activity. the higher up a post is displayed, the more important it is. this linking and displaying of the content is done automatically and the only part where editorial judgment comes in is in creating the original ‘seeding list’. this list is hand-picked by the site’s founder to ensure that the content displayed on techmeme is always of interest to techmeme’s readers.

once you understand they way techmeme works, it begins to look more like a competitor for socially driven news and content sites. while techmeme is a great tool for discovering what is happening at any given moment it’s not good at all if you want to find some older content. in fact, the aggregator doesn’t even have search functionality and you have to look for old content by entering a date on the main page of the site (which means you’re lost if you don’t know the exact date an article was published). while i love the ‘content discovery’ and the ‘conversation grouping’ features of techmeme, if i want to find an old conversation from the site, i find myself going back to google and using the ‘site search’ operator.

even if techmeme included search functionality on their own site, the fact that they index only a few thousand sites takes them out of the running.

contender number 3: facebook

scoble’s mention of facebook and the role of social networking (along with social search) in improving the trustworthiness and accuracy of search results isn’t a completely new idea and in fact google has the technology, they just haven’t integrating it into their search engine. if they wanted to at any point (i.e. if they felt that it needs to be done) they could easily use their own social networking site, orkut, along with google co-op custom search to offer any benefits of an integrated socially-networked social-search engine.

so what now?

as we can see, each of these contenders on their own are not strong enough to take on google (and in some cases either rely or need to rely on google to succeed). and as for scoble’s idea of a united entity, that takes their collective powers to compete with google, i think we mustn’t forget that google has the following entities that it has yet to completely incorporate into it’s search:

  1. Google Search
  2. Google Co-op
  3. Blogger
  4. Google Reader
  5. Orkut
  6. Dodgeball

combining google search with blogger and google reader, google could create a techmeme-like technology, and then combining orkut (and even dodgeball) with google search and google co-op custom search, google could very well create a mahalo-facebook-like socially-networked social-search site. ultimately, I think a more interesting scenario to hypothesize about is what happens if/when google incorporates all these products into a new google search?

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14 thoughts on “why mahalo, techmeme, and facebook will never replace google

  1. Tony Hung

    The assertion that Mahalo/ Techmeme/ Facebook will overtake Google in 4 years is so far out and absurd that I almost think the post is linkbait — except I know its not because Robert Scoble doesn’t really need the links. 🙂

  2. chimera

    do you really think orkut can be mentioned in the same sentence as facebook? let’s be honest, google practically hides the fact that they even own orkut. it sucks and they know it – trust me, i have several friends who used to work at google’s orkut division (one as an engineer and another in their ‘customer support’) and it was treated as its red-headed stepchild. also, the fact that orkut is more or less unknown in the U.S. and many other ..ahem..developed nations makes me believe you haven’t done your research on the ever-growing popularity and importance of facebook. in short, google has no chance of winning that battle.

  3. Codswallop

    I love Robert Scoble. But I am afraid that this time around he’s got it wrong. Here’s my 2c on this.

    1. Mahalo – You summed that up very nicely.

    2. Techmeme – On top of the very correct things you said, It’s important to remember that Google takes into account a much wider range of editorially important sites like universities/government and so on. IMO that puts Google in a better position to determine relevancy.

    3. Facebook/other social networks – I believe that Google’s inclination to continue giving a lot of weight to a links in the relevancy algorithm is a good tactic. Giving a link is a big editorial step and while I may “thumb-up” a video of a kid setting himself on fire. I would never link to it from my blog. And because of that a search for google on fire shows the Wikipedia entry and not the said video, which is probably the better result.

  4. John Wesley

    Good analysis. I think Scoble might be losing it — these claims seem like a desperate ploy for attention.

    Rand’s ripping over at SEOmoz is also worth a read.

  5. Arpit Jacob

    Well it sure did look like link bait when I first read it. I wonder if Scoble is feeling alright ? He’s been acting weird for the past 1 month. Anyway I will eat my hat if what scoble said comes to pass.

  6. George Philip, Elavatta

    Scoble is wrong this time. None of these sites has something new or innovative like google. None are technically advanced as google.

    Dont underestimate the power of Google to innovate. where will google be in the next 4 years.

    Mahalo is awfully slow, and practically has the same google search results. so google results at a slower speed

    Techmeme is one among a million. It may be a competitor to digg but not google.

    “All the good things on this earth are free. Air, water, google…”
    George Philip, Elevatta / Elavatta

    Quoted from http://georgepsblogs.blogspot.com/2006/06/my-adages.html

  7. James Wells

    Great analysis and debate stance. You took a more objective view used good information to make your point. I have extra hats for those that would like to join arpit jacob and myself.

  8. ricco500

    Something that I think is foregotten here is that google has something these other sites don’t… scalability. It doesn’t matter how big the web (or the world for that matter) gets, google has algorythims that will keep pace and will constantly be tweaked to give more relevant, robust results. As more links are added to the web (a new site every second… that is pretty fast) sites like Mahalo can do nothing but add more editors. Sites like facebook can do nothing but ask their users to generate more content.
    Until these sites figure out how to scale with the web (as Google has done) the idea that they will house Google is rediculous.

  9. Fabian Schonholz

    Look guys, all is possible, however unlikely. So, we can all make assertions as to this or that, but at the end, the proof is in the pudding.

    You also never know what this companies can come up with. One problem that establish companies have is that they have a hard time changing direction and accommodating to market changes. It is easier to add than to change. It is easy to innovate when you do not have that much baggage.

    I like Google, I like it a lot. But it is a big company and younger smaller companies are in a better position to answer market fluctuations.

    Now, will any of these companies will overtake Google? As I said, we need to wait and see.

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