Google – the empire built on a habit.

April 4, 2011

Googling” – a recognised verb which entered the English language nearly a decade ago. The act of googling itself was a habit that became entrenched at around about the same time (which is what led to the ubiquity of the word in the first place). Looking for something on the web? Google it. An entrenched habit.

10 years later and things have moved on. The complexity and granularity of the web has exploded. No longer is a search, a search, is a search… (although Google would love us to believe so). Nowadays there are plenty of types of search and I’ve personally found better sources than Google for many of those searches. Hands-down better sources in my experience. Here’s a few:

    Go straight to Wikipedia. Yes, there’s those out there who say Wikipedia is an unreliable and manipulatable source, but who the heck says the Google search results aren’t? Just look at content farms and you’ll see that entire companies are being floated on the stock exchange based on manipulating google results.

    Ever tried an image search on Flickr? Maybe not as slick as Google Image search but the quality of photos on Flickr is astounding. Even the creative commons pics are mind-blowing if you dig a teensy weensy bit.

  • LOCAL OR CURRENT EVENTS (like today or yesterday I mean)
    Twitter rules. Without doubt. Do a search for your town in twitter and you’ll find out exactly whats going on – like a few seconds ago. The monetization model for twitter hasn’t hatched yet, but the more I use it, the more i see its REAL value is in search. Finding stuff out.

    Go straight to Facebook. OK, so admittedly I usually combine a Facebook search with a G search when I’m people lurking, and it turns up lots of interesting stuff, but if it were an either OR choice, I’d be hard pressed to choose.

    Go straight to Amazon. You’ll be surprised at the high quality of Amazon book reviews. Better than anywhere else I’ve found. Honestly – if its a book I’m after I go straight to Amazon. And with the  smart bookmarks I’ve set up in Firefox that is as simple as entering “A” followed by the book title – straight into my address box.  (I’ve also got W for Wikipedia and a few others…)

As the web grows, the fragmentation of search continues. It was inevitable. There’s loads of other examples – movies=IMDB, business consultants = LinkedIn.  There is no longer room for a One-size-fits-All search engine. Here’s an old post I wrote in which Wolfram Alpha knocked the socks off the Big G.

And I’m not going to even make a big thing of other alternatives like Bing. Most reports rate Google’s results as slightly better quality – but the gap is closing. And rather than wade through 2nd page and 3rd page results in Google, why not click to Bing – its also only one click away.

But old habits die hard – usually because of inertia; often out of pure ignorance about a lack of alternatives.  Good for Google, because no matter how many new directions and services they move into, the bottom line is almost entirely dependent on their one-trick-pony: sponsored search results. Hey, I’m not about to write off Google’s future yet – they still wield incredible power – but I must say that they seem pretty reliant on a population that ignorantly sticks to old habits. To be precise – one old habit – “googling”. And inefficient habits does not seem to me a good basis for a long-term business model.


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