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Strategies for a discontinuous future.












Friday, May 28, 2004
 


The Search Wars

There won't be any - ignore the hype. The real battle is a strategic one, and it's already been won. MS's strategy - in fact, it's whole epistemology - is focused on being end-to-end (in everything, search, media, etc, etc). The problem is that this becomes a thing-in-itself - a goal to be reached regardless of reality. And reality tells us that the last thing users want is search that integrates everything in the universe; intuitively, the results of such a search are meaningless.

That's because things from different contexts have different values - that's why Google separates shopping, usenet, web, and media results from each other. Imagine having all these on the same screen: your search value would decrease exponentially, because you have a lot more crap to filter through, much of which could be autofiltered by assigning value to categories before the search even happened.

For similar reasons, personalization doesn't create search economies - it massively limits them. Let's distinguish 2 types of personalization. First, shallow personalization: this tries to contradict the economics of search - it limits the search space itself (giving the user the illusion of more effective search). Second deep personalization: this uses filter and heuristics to add it's own 'search results'. Think Amazon. The problem, again, is the same: even deep personalization needs a context - sci-fi books, horror movies, academic papers, etc. And so far, only humans can really tell what that kind of context means.

This is why the search wars are already over. End2end search as a strategic goal completely ignores the fundamental microeconomics of search itself (but MS is playing a brilliant tactical game in convincing people and opponents it knows what it's doing). Think of this as a future MSN/Passport.

-- umair // 12:19 PM //


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