There's an interesting article from MediaPost today on the future of Search. The headline really captures the feel of the piece:
Are User-Generated Web Sites Breaking The Search Engines' Algorithms?
Ho hum. Why is it that, every few months when somebody comes along and breathlessly predicts the imminent demise of search, nobody remembers the last time somebody came along and breathlessly predicted the imminent demise of Search?
For the record, here's a little history:
- In Feb 2001, Search Engine Watch founder Danny Sullivan wondered if the impending closure of Go.com spelled the end of it all. Anybody remember Go.com?
In April 2005, iMedia's Kevin Ryan predicted
that on-site search would kill the big search firm. Since then, Google's share price
has risen a good 260%.
... and so on.
The bottom line here is that search technology is market-driven to produce the result most desirable to the searcher, as efficiently as possible. Over the long road we've traveled since the advent of Archie in 1990, we've seen a million systems, and we—meaning those of us who make a living getting people and their products found on the Web—have found creative ways to game every single one of them.
But search is, among other things, an arms race, and I believe we have already passed the critical point where it is actually a better economic proposition to render useful and relevant service on the Web than it is to game the latest set of search algorithms. That point—sometime in 2006, as I make it—was a watershed moment in the history of e-commerce, because it meant that the interests of internet advertisers and shoppers were finally aligned.
For now, anyway.
So what's the good news? Simple: if you sell stuff online, then for now you can concentrate on making yourself as useful as possible to your customer base, and they will come. For now, ethical actors hold all the cards, and we can all do very well by producing high-quality products and helping our customers get as much out of them as they can.
That's a far cry from the end of anything.