Ping It is a social link sending platform for quick and personal content recommendations. is a social link sending platform for quick and personal content recommendations.

The web search is dead

May 23rd, 2011 Posted by StormDriver View Comments

Search is dead. And before you dismiss this claim as something only a crazy start-up would say, let me explain. It seems that two biggest search engines admit that the old, query-based search is going the way of a dodo. They have finally acknowledged, that combing through countless pages of raw data, of polluted and inaccurate results, in order to find anything valuable, is hardly a good user experience. That’s why the dinosaurs of the web turned to the new ways: Google with its “+1” button, and Bing – with Facebook’s “like” and increasing Facebook integration. Instead of working on algorithms that could automatically refine search, they turned to your social connections instead, to do the dirty work.

It’s not a fad, or a copycat stunt. Those are the biggest players of the online world, employing droves of analysts. They know which way the wind blows, and they don’t want it to blow in their face. They realize we’ve reached the breaking point of data congestion, where keyword search is unlikely to give you the best possible result. In fact, you can count yourself happy if you find anything of any use in first 10 results, as you can see in this great article. The results are broken by SEO tricks, positioning, content farms, rampant ads, promoted results, and finally – the explosion of data and proliferation of new, aggressive sites. Google and Microsoft know that. We know that as well, that’s exactly the thing we had in mind while drafting our last cartoon.

There is a well-known model, called DIKW, that describes the information status of the current world. It’s a 4-tier pyramid: Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom. Raw data is at the bottom, Wisdom comes on top. Every day we are flooded with data, but it takes intelligence, expertise and analysis to turn it into actual Wisdom. Items from higher levels of the pyramid are much more valuable (and rare) than the ones from the bottom.

The trusty old search engine is on the bottom of the pile, tough with recent changes both Google and Bing want to go higher up. So far they only outputted thousands of pages of raw data. That’s the old way of doing things – and it stopped working long time ago, unless you’re a journalist, researcher or any other data mining individual. But if you’re a regular user, just think about it: how many pages you visit often did you find through googling? Did you start to use Facebook after you typed “social network” into your search query? Did you find Gmail while looking for “free e-mail provider” on Yahoo! search?  Did you start to play World of Warcraft after searching for “massively addicting electronic crack”?

Of course not.

In all three cases, a more powerful engine was at work – the engine of human-based recommendations. You’ve heard this and that from your friends, you’ve seen some snippets of information in the media, until you finally clicked “sign up”. At least that’s how it went for most of us. You didn’t have to comb through piles of raw Data, or even choose from stacks of Information. You have received a refined bit of Knowledge from your friends. And this Knowledge turned to Wisdom overtime (you realized that Facebook is boring, WoW is repetitive, and Gmail has its flaws).

If you go to a restaurant, you expect an end product, created through careful application of human work, intellect and expertise. You don’t expect a table full of raw ingredients, with a printed recipe on top.

Right now, the world is moving towards search-less and URL-less future. Soon, mobile devices will become the primary way of accessing the web. And they are definitely not search friendly. Lack of physical keyboard, small screen capable of displaying only several results at time – it all makes googling on a tablet hardly a prime experience. Operating systems and user interfaces change to facilitate gestures, touch, and clicks. But the keyboard-loving web seems slow to adapt. Or it seemed to be.

Adding social recommendations to search engines is just the first of many steps. It might help Google get out from the lowest level of our DIKW pyramid. We, as well as other internet users, applaud the decision, even though an additional button is not enough. They need to go further.

We wanted search to change for a long time now. It’s nice to know that Microsoft and Google agree it needs to be done!

Posted in About, Collective Intelligence, Content Discovery, Internet Trends, Social Browsing, Technology |

  1. While I agree there is some merit to sharing recommendations, I can’t admit that searching is out and out “dead” at this point, or will be obsoleted by social networking any time soon.  My facebook account is tiny, I have only my closest family and friends on there.  My family and friends know nothing about my hobbies, for example, so I can’t rely on them to know anything about that.  Don’t even get me started on +1ing porn and getting found out by my mother.

    The example I come round to is which has been around some 13 years but ranks a dismal 473ish on Alexa despite being a great way to “search” without typing.  Another issue is that many sites are simply entirely neglected from this index, or cannot be easily categorized, and there isn’t much room for spam and garbage in there.  (I also don’t believe dmoz could handle the demand should it suddenly become the #1 Internet resource for phones and tablet users overnight.)

    I still believe there’s a solution to the issue that the big players could easily take a stake in.  For example, Chrome could implement a system which could provide a list of suggested links on -every- visited site based on metrics collected from previous visitors to the current site.  From here, a +1 or Like button would make sense to profile the user and their choices.

    In this realm I don’t see any obvious advantage to associating this with the user dossier: my mother doesn’t care about calculating the partition starting point of a disk image for mounting a disk image on a loopback interface on linux, but I do, and anybody else who finds that page will.

    If anything, basing metrics on my Twitter followers/followings would make more sense than my Facebook account, but of course Facebook is bigger(, so sense just goes out the window).

    Many sites do something like this already simply by offering links to associated sites or other resources.

    Then again there’s the old method of using bookmarks.  I’ve seen some monstrous bookmark collections, both organized and disorganized.

    Oddly enough, more often than not, the site I want to visit is usually on my Chrome start page already in the form of one of 8 tiles displaying a preview of the page.

  2. Jon McLaren

    not to harshen your buzz, search is not out, and it never will be, all they did was add social features. The URL bar however is in transition. It probably wont actually dissapear however it will be less of a feature with web browsers.

    Search will take different forms heck we may even search using our minds one day instead of typing.

  3. Hugo Guzman

    You definitely present a fairly sound case. The only problem is that you’ve failed to grasp many of the real-life examples of why “traditional” (e.g. data/information) search will always be valuable. For example, I’m staying in a town in Homestead (Florida) for my anniversary this weekend so I need to find a hotel in a hurry. I may ask my friends on social networks, but the much more efficient way to accomplish this task is to, guess what? Search on Google.

    There’s no doubt that both Google and Microsoft understand the importance of being able to proactively provide information, knowledge, and wisdom to users (based on various user signals, including social network data) but there will always be a place for discovery. It’s just the interface will have to change.

    If you really want to be forward thinking, ponder how search (and all other UI) will change once humans are able to directly interface with information via wireless neural connections (e.g. “Google” something in my mind). Talk about not needing a keyboard.

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