Home > Method, Monitoring, Observations, Software > Is there a way around Google?

Is there a way around Google?

In this blog post I will cover the different ways that entrepreneurs building search engines solutions are positioned to take on the Google challenge.  As you’ll see soon there are many fronts to this battle.

The Challenge

I have to admit that now when I look for something I go Google first. My homepage is Google but mostly I use the Google toolbar. Google is there when I use the web from the browser. Too close. This is my “active search”.In 90% or more of the times I’m satisfied with Google’s results for my “active search”. Most of the time I find what that I need in the very first result page. I use Google as a spell checker, idioms checker, map, business and people finder. I use it when I’m  looking for : images, videos, stock tickers (then I go Yahoo Finance) and more.

When I “listen” to the web I have more options. I do use Google Alerts but not exclusively.  I have Alerts set for some keywords, yes, including my name, blog name and URL but not just those. I have more “ears” on the web like FriendFeed, Twitter, many RSS feeds, Newsletters and more. This is my “passive search“.

So, how can you lure people to use your search solution (so you can sell ads and make money)?

What are the additional dimension/fronts to this battle over content discovery?

Let’s first look at some of the existing fronts:

  • Active search
    • Microsoft – new IE install defaults to Live Search as a homepage – failed (around 9%). Cashback?
    • Yahoo – if they were better they did not had to strike a deal with Google but I think that this is as good as it gets (around 20%).
  • Building a developers community – Yahoo – the new Search Monkey initiative is empowering and will probably help Yahoo pushing their search as a service while building a developers community. Some claim that they need to open it even more.
  • Social bookmaking – not bad but not so great either. It seems better when the search part was a result of the social network content organization and not the original objective. Tags like in del.icio.us can help in finding information with some crowd wisdom. It could short search time too. Yet, it seems better for some categories then others (it is great for developers).
  • Sophisticated search algorithm – If aimed at “Active Search” then I’m not sure. If I get 90% of the times what that I want from Google. I may go there after giving up on Google but not as my first choice. Maybe after many times proven better I will consider it but I did not see one that good yet. Do you? I did not play yet with Powerset that uses natural language processing to understand meaning so there is a hope.
  • Better UI for the search results – again, If aimed at “Active Search” then this is not the way to take on Google.
  • Blog search engine – seems like aiming at the long tail using advertising network is the next attempt taken by Technorati. Probably serving the blogger community and presenting what is hot now on the service’s web site was not the answer (for a business model). Apparently, most people don’t see the difference between a blog and web site when they go looking for information (or even after finding it in a blog). So, they Google (in most cases not using Google blog search engine). I want to see what the creative people at Twingly will come up with. So far, it looks great. What that I see in this front is more opportunities because it is not bound to textual search only. Bloggers, blogs and posts has relationship, i.e. meta data that has value beyond the content. Blogging is discussing, teaching, preaching, mentoring, provoking, guru-ing, sharing. Systems that knows how to capture this meta data, store it properly and leverage it will have a chance to create a advantage over Google in matching ads to blog readers.
  • Vertical search – we need to see how this goes but based on this blog post talking about GenieKnows it has some momentum.
  • Passive search – using Alerts, Feeds (using pipes) and Filters like Filtrbox – this can keep me away for a while from Google till I need an ad hock search. Same is posting questions – but I found that it depends on the community. Finding what you want could be slow but for tough questions this could be a great option. Yedda is one example.
  • Search results aggregation with social touch: I like Xoost‘s premise that some searcher are better than others and sharing searches could save time for everybody. The tool searches across multiple search engines – today: Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Live Search.  I’m still trying to figure out all the features in this service (and there are lots of them) but this seems to be a beginning of a long term relationship. Look at some of the feedback after you join in, you can learn a lot from it. One warning, the pages are overloaded with options and that make it hard for first timers to know where to start, so give it some time. Once you get use to it the Channels tie it all together nicely.

Other fronts not covered here:

  • Mobile search engines  – I’m yet to explore this domain. I know that Google is investing in this area a lot of effort. Also Powerset did something in this area yet it only bound to Wikipedia for now.
  • Social Search engines – there are so many of them (more than 40) – do you see a leader?
  • Search focus on products’ discussions – like Omgili
  • Enterprise CMS search engines – not my cup of tea and actually Google is getting there replacing old solutions.

Additional fronts to consider:

  • Distance – get in between me and Google. When I launch the browser it is too late for a different search engine today.  Few options:
    • Use Adobe Air for building a light desktop app (that looks like a web page).
    • Integrate with Twhirl or other “distributed discussion” desktop client.
    • Sneak-in through my blog – like what that Zemanta is doing (in a way this is both active and passive).
  • Don’t let me leave my “passive search” page/tool/widget. Few options:
    • Maybe by going social.
    • Maybe building a widget that turns my “Active” searches to “Passive” (no matter what engine I use) .

Do you see more fronts to take on or by-pass Google?

Is it a search and destroy….capital mission?

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  1. searchling
    July 6, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    To create your own vertical or local or blog search that combines only information that you want to focus on either actively or passively, you have the option to use something like Lucene/Nutch or use a commercial offering of lucene like SearchBlox. With the availability of low cost computing in the cloud these days, you can create something for pretty inexpensive. http://www.searchblox.com/searchbloxami.html

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