Friday, July 22, 2005

Search Engines

Robert Scoble (who else) is doing some great work right now identifying which of the plethora of new blog search engines are up to the job.

His techniques are rather crude (he finds an interesting post and asks each of the search engines under consideration to tell him how many people they think are linking to it) but it's a valuable experiment nonetheless. (I say it's crude because I'm not sure he gives engines any credit for relevance or quality but, as a first order approximation, it'll do just fine)

It's clear that searching blogs successfully requires a different set of algorithms to a "regular" search engine - the discrepancies amongst the "pure play" engines (and the lag that the "heritage" engines exhibit) is proof of that. But for mainstream acceptance, people aren't going to accept one search provider (Google) for the web and another (who??) for blogs. They have to converge.

However, Scoble points to this article which suggests that there are yet more blog search engines readying themselves in the wings. This is an example of the Creative Destruction that capitalism excels as... consolidation will follow. But the question in my mind is: which of them are going to win when things do begin to shake out?

It's obvious that they're not all going to be the next Google. Indeed, I don't think *any* of them will be the new Google. A common exit strategy in a business plan is to be bought by a bigger player in your industry. I wonder which of Technorati, Pubsub, Bloglines, Feedster et al are playing that game? I'm not sure the opportunity is large enough for me to want to be the guy playing the "independent; organic growth" game when my competitor gets bought out by Yahoo.

How many of them will make the crossover from "great technology; too geeky" to something I could recommend to my friends and family? Right now, there are none that I feel able to recommend to friends when they ask "how can I find interesting blogs" or "who is linking to me?" When one emerges that *does* fit the bill, things will begin to hot up.

Right now, it's fun to watch but I don't have the time to try ten different sites, each of which is inadequate in an excitingly different way...

Interestingly, I did a quick search for my blog and only Technorati (out of the ones I tried) could find me. It appears that I am an "IBM UK Blogger". http://www.computerworld.com/blogs/node/484. I suppose that's technically true but there's nothing official about this...

2 comments:

J. Scott Johnson / Feedster said...

Hi there,

I'm Scott Johnson, one of the founders of Feedster. You have some excellent points here. I did want to mention that you are well indexed by Feedster at least:

http://feedster.com/search.php?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&q=weblog_id%3D5546464&sort=date

Thanks!
Scott

Richard Brown said...

Thanks Scott!

This is quite interesting.... if I enter my blog address into the first search dialog that feedster presents, it simply returns a single result: my blog.

Fair enough.

If I click on "links" and do the same search, I find out who's linking to me.

Also good.

I guess the mistake I made was that technorati do both: I simply enter my URL into the first search entry they give me and the results page shows my blog (like you do) and also shows me who's linking to me.

So it's not necessarily a "quality" thing - it's a matter of presentation or usability.

Perhaps you could add a link next to each blog you pull up saying something like "Who's linking to this blog?"

Or perhaps pre-populate the contents of the search box when you click on "links" to hold the string that the user last searched on.