Google is Dead

I think Google Search will become irrelevant within a couple years, but I’m interested in what other people think right now.

When and why do you use Google, and what does it get you?

To find a home page of a site you’re already aware of — I don’t remember the exact URL of John Gruber’s markdown site, but I can find it in two clicks with a Google search. It’s not long before Mac and Windows will allow you to do this with one click (50% better). We all use Google for this today, but who really needs Google for this?

To find a person. The first few results are always Facebook, LinkedIn, WhitePages, and ZoomInfo. I can search those sites myself, thank you. Again, Google is only serving to save me 1 or 2 clicks today. Their service is easily replaceable by better-integrated interfaces like QuickSilver.

To research a technical topic. Today the only useful result is Wikipedia, and its content is becoming more and more incomplete and unprofessional (un-useful) every day. This used to be a core strength of web search engines — one of the original missing features of the internet, which they solved — but they all seem to have lost it, partly because experts don’t make webpages anymore and partly because the search engines have abandoned any desire to focus on serving a technical audience. I think the only audience that matters online in the long term is the technical audience, because today’s techies define tomorrow’s mass-market. Google Scholar and Google Search are opposite poles (both useless) of the service we need. This is technically feasible but completely un-implemented right now as far as I know, though I know a startup looking at business services. As an aside, I think PageRank is responsible for this mess.

To look up something in pop culture. At their current pace, this is probably the only place where Google’s general search will still be relevant in 5 years, which is sad for Google because MS, Time Warner, News Corp, and anyone else can do this just as well. This “lowest common denominator” search is not distinguished, interesting, or profitable. The only explanation for why Google has gone this way is relentless pursuit of growth (measured indiscriminately). Let’s hope they can spin out enough interesting side-products to remain somewhere near the cutting edge (or hope not, depending on who you root for).

Google Search is dead. Google will make plenty of money from organizing others’ advertisements for a while to come. “Internet Portal” has always been one of the most fickle and unreliable businesses to stake a claim in, and this is effectively where Google Search is. Now that I think about it I’m convinced that in the next 5 years “Portal/Search” belongs to the operating system developers (Apple, MS), and not internet companies — because operating systems own the first click, and that’s all it ought to take to find anything. Google won’t have a say unless they can get Chrome to replace the Finder/Explorer, which they want to, but I don’t think they can do that soon enough. Perhaps Facebook could get a niche foothold in if they can broaden their service enough to include static information as well as social info.

4 Responses to “Google is Dead”

  1. Ben Says:

    Huh. I’m not sure having search in the OS saves me any clicks at the moment. I am never sitting in front of a networked computer without a browser open. Google search is one click anyway.

    Other uses: technical answers from professional sites. I have no patience for navigating, say, MSDN pages, but I’ve used Google to find specific answers within them. Actually, I can make this more general: I use Google as a single-domain search engine for sites whose own built-in search is nonexistent or inadequate, which is a lot of sites. I use Google to find old threads on a set of forums I read, because the search there is crap and cuts off beyond a certain date.

    Also, long-tail pop culture. Stuff that 99.99% of the population couldn’t care less about, but a few people have spent an inordinate amount of time organizing information on. I can’t see TimeWarner making any effort to find me that sort of thing; it’s just not their model.

  2. Other Ben Says:

    You’re full of crap.

    Google is so frickin’ good at telling me exactly what I want to know–sometimes without even having to click on a result, since it’s in their little snippet–that I sometimes wonder when they perfected their mind-reading algorithm.

    Also, the Internet will always, ALWAYS be a huge marketplace, and will continue to grow as a marketplace without any reasonable upper bound. It’s just too easy to reach a global market with a niche product. And when I go to look for a product to fill my niche need, you can bet I’ll always be looking on the Internet for the answer. If Google continues to be the best tool to find me the product I need, I’ll continue to use them. Sure, you can marginalize that contribution by saying they’re just “organizing others’ advertisements”, but I’d call that “giving me exactly what I want really frickin’ fast”. There will ALWAYS be a market for that.

  3. Tyler King Says:

    You must be out yo damn mind.

    If anything, I would say that the role of the operating system is being phased out. We seem to be going in a direction where a computer will boot straight to a web browser and that’s the only role the OS will have.

    …And that day can’t come soon enough as far as I’m concerned.

    Also, Google (or search engines in general) power several up and coming forms of media such as blogging. As the costs of publishing and distribution drop to almost nothing, the role of massive companies like Time Warner decreases. From what I understand, blogs that actually make money rely heavily on visitors from search engines because people know what they want to read (sports news, personal finance info, fitness advice) but they don’t know where to read it.

    If people continue flocking from mainstream sources (provided by the media giants) to independent online content, google will be even more relevant.

  4. Tom Says:

    First, my post title was a little hyperbolic and “full of crap” is a completely reasonable response :)

    Ben1: domain-restricted search is an interesting point. Probably a good niche where the standard search engine could remain relevant, but that’s not enough to justify Google Search as a portal to me (and still I don’t know why Google is much ahead of competitors). I think the long tail is overhyped and mostly harmless/irrelevant. But it’s also a place where PageRank hurts as much as it helps the usefulness of results.

    BenOther: product search is something I hadn’t considered, and my initial reaction is that it is pretty good at that, but that the space will converge to have a handful of dominant players that give you all the info that’s available and useful (amazon, ebay, nextag…). Similar to Wikipedia, I don’t need a sophisticated Google to find that. Just a simple (replicable) Google.

    TK: Browser as OS is fine, but will it be an app (Chrome/FF) or Windows Explorer (with their handy address bar that accepts URLs)? I think Google grossly over-powers bloggers. I believe the internet is a great fact-checker and is (overall) increasing the accuracy of news, but so far it’s also increased the cost (in my time) of finding and verifying that information (vs relying on a couple trusted sources that you don’t feel the need to fact-check).

    These one-liners don’t do yall’s comments justice, so I’ll try to post a followup to respond better and clarify my original idea.