Search Engines Need More Accuracy, Less Garbage
Oct 13, 2004 5:00 AM PT
Now that the titans of e-commerce have been identified, search engines are leading the way for consumers online. At the same time, serious questions are emerging related to the efficacy of these search engines, among them "When will the search engines collide?" and, "How soon and why could this happen?"
If search engines are the principal devices for business access, then today's search results, which often include a great deal of irrelevant information, are a serious problem. Imagine looking at a stock ticker tape, where you get lottery numbers, weather reports, and airline schedules nicely arranged in matching fonts, along with the stock prices. How long would such a product last? Not one second.
In any research project, if the data flow has too strong of a current and, as a result, constantly shifts the timeline and/or alters the main question, then the results will have little or no value. "Freeze-frame performance" is almost impossible on search engines and the answers to a query can be confusing, or buried too deep.
Should the Internet be divided into categories like "E-Commerce for Business" and "Chit-chat for the General Population," perhaps?
Today, finding a solution to this problem may seem an impossible task, but then, only a decade ago, the Internet itself was practically non-existent.
The general availability of data is just too large to fathom. Billions of pages going to trillions. Who has the time or the interest to sift through all this? Most of the information available online is replicated again and again, then twisted, corrupted and re-entered again and again. When one search question retrieves one million answers, the system fails -- results have little or no value.
Accessing the world's data via the Internet is still the best method, but cracks are beginning to appear. Information is only powerful when it is cohesive, pertinent, precise and crystallized. Otherwise, it's nothing but junk. This is what makes the difference between a small diamond and a huge mountain.
Both the brain and the computer monitor are too small. Even with the largest screens, the mind simply caves in when the number of hits found numbers in the thousands. Contrary to belief, the human mind hasn't evolved at all in the last millennium; rather it seems to be regressing under the burden of all this garbage information. Searching online is no longer easy, and it's getting more and more time consuming.
Though search engines are still the best models, they're heading into an abyss. What would happen if the world's 10 million libraries were assembled under one roof? It's great for a thousand miles of shelving, but not practical for the human mind.
Now, when multi-billion dollar search technologies respond to queries and painstakingly screen a trillion pages and cough up thousands of sites in seconds, then what? Does more results mean more answers? No, it means more confusion, and the human effort expended in reading and sifting through the garbage is going to add to our national debt. Ad revenues will shrink as the advertisers begin to realize the state of the overly crowded, partially disconnected and heavily diluted marketplace. This is like a single person wearing a t-shirt with a slogan in a stadium of 100,000 people, hoping to attract the right customer. This is not an advertising model, it's a shot in the dark. It may be cheap, but not a sure bet. We better a start new system right now.
Garbage in, garbage out. If loading up garbage continues to be part of the game, then the output results will be the same. Let this be a victory for the freedom of speech and democracy, but the purpose of searching is coming to a crossroad. Here, even Aristotle would agree that researching has nothing to do with free speech. E-commerce searching is a fact-finding mission. It demands precise answers. Right now, the search engine industry is going for the largest possible databases, even at the risk of slowing down search results.
Established corporate identities with global clout may coast, but others with innovative ideas and emerging technologies will have to cope with this immense load of landfill. When you're lost online, even big-budget promotions won't help put you under the spotlight. Newer, unexposed e-commerce identities are facing a make-or-break proposition.
Start Your Engines
Though it's often a misunderstood process, achieving success in e-commerce branding can be relatively inexpensive. Unknown corporations can still succeed at bullet speed. But to do this they need to have access to the next wave of extraordinary browsers. The race is on to create these browsers, which will do everything, including making discreet selective contacts, conducting both general and specific searches and enabling swift transactions, all while building three-dimensional purchasing profiles and compiling them into wrap-sheets.
This will be the making of a true "online global bazaar" in living color. This will further accelerate global communications and reduce time lag between ideas and reality. Businesses would heavily depend on the power of URLs and make sure that they are properly structured and protected with global visibility.
Meanwhile, cyber-branding, corporate image and the creation of name identities remain on the forefront. Advertisers will continue to exhaust themselves in these massive landfills, and designing new methods to reach customers will be an ongoing challenge. Formats will gradually start to change, and they could re-emerge as a series of new search engine products and services. But all of this is unlikely to happen quickly. Only a titanic collision would properly correct today's already outdated searching model.
Naseem Javed, author Naming for Power and also Domain Wars, is recognized as a world authority on global name identities and domain issues. Javed founded ABC Namebank, a consultancy he established a quarter century ago, and conducts executive workshops on image and name identity issues. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.