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.
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:
- Google Search
- Google Co-op
- Google Reader
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?