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Why Google Search will NOT rule the Universe

Today may very well be looked back upon as the first day that marked the beginning of the end of Google's upward ascent.

How so? Google aims for Universal Search domination in its just announced  proclamation that no need to go anywhere else but for anything and everything: Images, Maps, Books, Video, and News…

But, Google may find itself facing universal unease with the perhaps soon to be unrecognizable "everyone's favorite garge band."
As is the Google standard, the sweeping makeover of the entire Google $150 billion market cap search machine is presented by Google as purely in the "user's" best interest. The cheeriest Google ambassador of all, Marissa Meyers, had the announcement honors, and she acknowledged herself!:

Back in 2001, Eric asked for a brainstorm of a few "splashy" ideas in search. A designer and product manager at the time, I made a few mockups - one of which was for 'universal search.' It was a sample search results page for Britney Spears that, in addition to web results, also had news, images, and groups results right on the same page.

Well six years and undoubtedly millions in Google stock dividends later, Marissa got to show Eric what she is made of, big time:

That mockup and early observations were the motivation behind the universal search effort we announced earlier today. And while that Britney Spears mockup was the start of Google's universal search vision, it was instantly obvious that this would be one of the biggest architectural, ranking, and interface challenges we would face at Google. Over several years, with the help of more than 100 people, we've built the infrastructure, search algorithms, and presentation mechanisms to provide what we see as just the first step in the evolution toward universal search. Today, we're making that first step available on by launching the new architecture and using it to blend content from Images, Maps, Books, Video, and News into our web results.

For public facing Marissa, all is in the name of the vaunted user experience:

This proliferation of tools, while useful, has outgrown the old model of search. We want to help you find the very best answer, even if you don't know where to look.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, however, is more sanguine. My how things have changed since Brin's happy go lucky, student days at Stanford University.

Brin then: Struggling, bachelor researcher in training with a noble search cause.

Brin now: Mega rich, newlywed high flying corporate exec with a mercenary search ambition.

Google has its origins in an academic prototype built by Brin, in collaboration with fellow student Larry Page.

The goal of Brin and Page at the time was to build a large scale search engine WITH NO ADVERTISING!:

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, however, is more sanguine. My how things have changed since Brin's happy go lucky, student days at Stanford University.

Brin then: Struggling, bachelor researcher in training with a noble search cause.

The predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users.

We expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.

Brin and Page warned "Since it is very difficult even for experts to evaluate search engines, search engine bias is particularly insidious":

It could be argued from the consumer point of view that the better the search engine is, the fewer advertisements will be needed for the consumer to find what they want. This of course erodes the advertising supported business model of the existing search engines. We believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm.

Brin and Page have certainly not lived up to their promise of search engine transparency: Google is the biggest, blackest box of them all.

Brin and Page have also conveniently forgotten their disdain for an advertising fueled search model. In fact, with Universal Search, advertising gets even more universal!

This is the first major revamp of the site and its underlying architecture in several years, said Google co-founder Sergey Brin. The work began about two years ago and more than half of the company's search efforts were devoted to it, he told reporters after the event, adding that the site will continue to evolve. The changes will expose to more people some "underutilized" Google services, such as Book Search and Video search, and they will help boost Google's already huge market share, Brin said.

"Our data says we not only are the best (search engine) but we're widening the gap," Brin said.

Marissa chimed in with three cheers for (more) advertising:

Google eventually will have ads featuring more than just text: some will include video and display, Mayer said in remarks to reporters afterward. "That door has always been open," she said. "We don't have a particular timeline in place."

No matter the timetable, from out of the Universal Search gate, Google has lost its pristine groundings at

PREDICTION: The new Universal Search Google will meet the fate of the now infamous company-threatening New Coke fiasco.

Just as Coca-Cola used millions of dollars worth of market research to justify turning its back on the 100 year old strong secret Coca Cola formula for success and ended up back peddling and drowning in New Coke tears, the new will regret it ever fiddled with the magic that was the unadorned, unimaginative

Wikipedia: New Coke was the unofficial name of the sweeter formulation introduced in 1985 by The Coca-Cola Company to replace its flagship soft drink, Coca-Cola or Coke. Properly speaking, it had no separate name of its own, but was simply the new version of Coke, until 1992 when it was renamed Coca-Cola II. Public reaction to the change was devastating, and the new cola quickly entered the pantheon of major marketing flops.

The new will flop as well, as least in the grand scheme of Brin and company for worldwide search domination.

Already, the new requires users to unnaturally reverse trained behaviors in vertical navigation by placing the tabbed options in the awkward very upper left, seemingly hoping that the users will ignore them and retrain themselves for the ultimate one box of the world: pure.

First page search results are a hodge podge of differing formats retrieved from diverse data sets, long gone is the founding principal guaranteeing the "ten most relevant pages of the World Wide Web."

Once the new flashy advertising kicks in, fugetaboutit, as Om Malik is fond of saying!

Today may very well be looked back upon as the first day that marked the beginning of the end of Google's upward ascent.

Will we see a downward spiral in Google's fortunes? NO.

But, contrary to the universal bows to the believed Google Universal Search power, Google has finally met its competition, the original

Donna Bogatin (ZDNet News)
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