Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Google: Now comes the hard part

An oddly negative NYT article on competing with Google:
    Most industry analysts and search engine experts say that Google arrived at its current position by offering more relevant search results than its rivals could, with a vast cache of Web pages and a stripped-down site that does not distract users. The question being debated by analysts and executives is whether the company will be able to use its technological resources to protect that position after it goes public.

    Google has been forced to place bets on certain technologies, and some industry executives argue that if the company has bet wrong, it is likely to find itself vulnerable.
True, but Google is in a fairly good position, with an incredible team and track record of innovation.

The article holds out personalized search as an opportunity to unseat Google, but then just as quickly snatches it away:
    There are some indications that the major search engines - Google, Yahoo and Microsoft - are all betting on personalization, the idea that collecting user information and tracking the Web sites a user visits can create more precisely tailored search results.

    But [Raul] Valdez-Perez [CEO of Vivisimo] argued that personalization efforts were likely to fail. "The problem is that everything you type will return an overload of information," he said. "Companies such as ours are betting on new ways to organize information."
While it's obviously in Raul's interests to argue against personalized search -- Vivisimo's (admittedly very cool) clustering technology doesn't involve personalization -- his argument is nonsense. The entire point of personalization is to provide focus in the overload of information. If search results are personalized to your interests, you'll see fewer irrelevant results, not more.

The article ends by claiming that Google has been unsuccessful outside of web search:
    So far the company has not had proven success with services like e-mail, catalogs, personalized searches, news and wireless search services.
C'mon, this is just silly. GMail has been an enormous phenomenon that has changed the face of free e-mail by causing all other free e-mail providers to increase their offerings to match. Google News (while not as compelling as one super-nifty-cool news site) gets an incredible amount of traffic after only about two years in service. Yes, Google has proven success with services outside of web search.

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