May 18, 2006

The Dawning Shrinking Relevance of Search Portals

Hypothesis: The rise (and utility) of sites like IMDB and technorati is the beginning of crumbling of search portals as navigation - a(nother) chink in the coming Web consumption shift (I'll write about thoughts on that another time).

For a while, it really looked like generic search was going to be the answer to any manner of navigational problems - heck, I still use Google to search
MSDN, because the built-in search on MSDN blows chunks. And obviously, Google, Yahoo, AOL, MSN search have all hoped that you'd type in addresses, phone numbers, ticker symbols, etc. into their one generic search box.

And in some measure, that has helped them all capture incremental traffic, but it hasn't really changed the game. As nice as Google Maps might be, Mapquest as a destination hasn't been impacted at all - its been a non-event.

My argument is really a "specialization beats generalization" along two axies:

(1) "Clean" validated metadata is more important to relevancy than purely data inferred relevancy. Google's desktop search initial launch didn't even let you specifiy file types - you don't need it, was the claim. Yet (as a very small, minor example), that type of metadata is very important to relevancy: finding what you want. Similarly, tagging and related phenomenen allow users to impute metadata, and the "wisdom of crowds" assigned it validity.

(2) Specialized presentations (i.e. task oriented) will beat generic ones for all but the most trivial interactions. That is, to put in Web two-dot-oh speak: The head of "attention" engagments will increasingly be task specific. IMDB works because the UI is well organized for cross-referencing (hyperlinking, if you will :P) amongst movie cast specific criteria.

In combination, this means that crawling alone will be an insufficient input to data and application relevancy over time. Where do you go to get stock quotes?


Dossy Shiobara said...

"Where do you go to get stock quotes?"

Just in case this wasn't a rhetorical question ...

I go to Yahoo! for stock quotes. However, I do it using a Firefox quicksearch, defined as:


So, I just Ctrl-T to open a new tab, then in the URL bar (another "search" box, in a sense), I type in:


and the browser transforms that into the following URL:

Very convenient. Yes, the browser has rendered the URL bar into just another "search" box, for me. :-)

Sree Kotay said...

So that's an interesting thought, dossy - disambiguation of queries (hinted or otherwise) has always struck me as a powerful tool.

Still, seems like that's in the margins for the most part... not sure why. I mean, you do even have to type the "q" into any AOL search box, and it does deliver incremental benefit, but I dunno -

In anycase, my main thought was that you use a finance portal even though you could type it into a search engine.

Dossy Shiobara said...

Sree, I don't intentionally use a finance portal. I just like Yahoo!'s presentation of the stock quote information better than, say:


Dossy Shiobara said...

Oh, and I have the following quicksearch, too:


So, if I open a new tab and type "g dossy" in the address bar, it does a Google search for "dossy". If I wanted Google to give me stock quotes, I could just type in "g TWX" and it'd do it.

Again, I just use Yahoo! because I prefer their presentation of the data.

jvaleski said...


from my entry: "The usefulness of Google search has been rapidly deteriorating for me over the past 6-12 months or so..."

medvegonok said...

That only means that general search portals will need to provide specialization configurations. They already have some - search images, search videos, etc. It appears that they have to bet on this more actively. In fact a big part of the blogging industry - - even now controlled by google. I.e., they have a good start.

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