Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
umair haque  


Design principles for 21st century companies, markets, and economies. Foreword by Gary Hamel. Coming January 4th. Pre-order at Amazon.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Thinking Strategically About Search

"...This brings us to the question of shoe leather and what Google can do to support those who want to produce original content."

Spot the flaw in this statement?

It will be, ultimately, Google's Achilles Heel.

Google has a very weak incentive to "support" content of quality. Put another way, Google's incentive to "support" content creators diminishes in quality.

Think about this intuitively: the more crap there is, the more stuff you have to wade through - the happier Google is (at least in the short run).

Let me put this even more succinctly. Google doesn't care about absolute levels of quality - it only cares about relative levels of quality. And the more media it indexes, the stronger this dilution of incentives gets.

Hence, it's incentive to "support" content creators, already weak, is going to diminish over time.

This is a huge problem for search. On the one hand, there is long run pressure to amplify the efficiency of search. But on the other, in the short run, there is a very real pressure not to ever touch the Golden Goose.

Note that this long run is a very long one - because search is a natural monopoly business, and so entry (aka competition, which forces investment in the quality of search) is slow, thin, and lacks momentum.

It's here that new entrants (hi Jimbo) should focus. How can this obvious vital point in the new value chain Google is forging be targeted?

It's an interesting question.

I don't have time to write a longer answer - but I think possibly you're better off thinking about this stuff than rehashing the same old conversations (ie, YouTube vs Viacom, are newspapers dead, etc).

As a sidenote, I think it's unfortunate that the usual suspects - Tim O'Reilly, Esther Dyson, blah blah etc - are completely ignoring questions like this in favour of kind of dead topics...but that's another post.

-- umair // 5:01 PM // 6 comments


Hey Umair, as they say in the mob pictures: "Are you talking to me?"
// Anonymous James // 7:04 PM

But surely the purpose of search, for the user, is to find stuff that's relevant. I understand that it's in Google's interests to make people wade through pages of content on the off chance that someone hits an ad in the sidebar, but surely if you're outputting quantity and not quality the punters walk.
// Blogger Leonard King // 5:27 AM

Interesting post. I recall when Google first launched that there was brisk take up of Google because there was a perception that it was a better filter. It was better at bringing up the quality search results. Now there's a perception that if it's not in Google it doesn't exist. Again a strange valuing of quantity vs. quality.
// Blogger Monique // 10:23 PM

The Google approach is based on popularity - thats not quite the same as quality.
// Anonymous alan p // 11:07 PM

Umair -

How does my firm hire you?
// Anonymous Jonathan // 6:31 PM

Umair, I am convinced that 'anonymity' itself cannot be either blamed or avoided in the development of internet communications. As you said: to focus on that is "missing the larger point". There are ways to solve this puzzle, and to begin to disrupt Google... But I can't openly discuss them here. In this case, the stakes are too high.
// Blogger Simon // 4:15 PM
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