So, like I was saying…


Lo, how the mighty have become…well, no longer the flavor of the month. As I was saying a few months ago, it used to suck to be a search engine. Then, yesterday, Scientific American published an article exploring the search for better Web searches.

As usual, read the article in full, don’t accept my interpretation of it — but note this casual statement as you read through:

“During the six years in which Google rose to dominance, it offered two critical advantages over competitors. One, it could handle extremely large-scale Web crawling tasks. Two, its indexing and weighting methods produced superior ranking results. Recently, however, search engine builders have developed several new, similarly capable schemes, some of which are even better in certain ways.” (Empasis mine.)

Note also the laundry list of people and companies who are both (a) developing really cool search technology and (b) aren’t Google.

Let us close this post with a quote from me:

But let us not forget that what Google did to Yahoo, Yahoo did to Alta Vista before them. That fundamental suck factor of search engines — the stuff that you’re searching is accessible to everybody and their mother — is still out there, and the cost of entry is still pretty low. All it takes is a startup with a platinum card to buy the hardware and a few really smart people who can deal with eating ramen three times a day for a couple of years.

That’s not to say that it’s inevitable, but it is easily possible. Unlike, say, Microsoft, it costs Google’s users nothing to switch to using someone else…they just point their browser to a new URL and Google’s ranking in the real world drops just a little bit.

Forever and ever, amen.

  • Tom

    This post made me think of a few articles I read recently in QUEUE Magazine. It was from the April 2004 edition (I’m way behind in my reading), but it is a great article Why Writing Your Own Search Engine is Hard.

    For as hard as the “simple” problems are to solve – in business, new competition can try to copy a businss model fairly easily – it usually just takes money. It still doesn’t diminish the challenge.