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Does the World Need A "Google-Beater"?
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Anyone else notice all of the damage control Google has been doing over recent months? Amongst complaints about the quality of their search results, the ever changing SERP and promotion of their own products (Google+, Google Places etc.) The once, and still relatively dominant leader in Search has been taking some heat lately and has been having to conduct some additional PR moves to ensure that the public sees Google in a positive light.  Concerns of privacy issues, doctoring their search results and placing value on well known brands have users questioning Google and their motives for "wanting to organize the world's information".  However Google still has a strong reputation and ranked only second to Apple in this regard.  Yet there are issues with the search giant that include:

  • possible misuse and manipulation of search results promoting their own products
  • collateral damage caused by algorithm updates that have directly impacted search results
  • use of others' intellectual property
  • no longer providing keyword referral information  as part of their analytics
  • antitrust and monopoly issues
  • censorship of search results
  • privacy concerns
  • over promotion of their products
  • bias with results 
  • use of link popularity as a ranking mechanism causing potential ranking manipulation
In many cases these concerns are legit.  While maybe not the best business model, a lot of companies are reliant on Google traffic to generate revenue.  When this traffic goes away (perhaps due to a Google Algorithm update) many of these businesses feel the impact on their bottom line.  Privacy concerns are a large issue with Google.  They recently update their privacy policy  that enables Google to share data across a wide variety of services.  Just how does Google use your data?  Well according to Google itself:

We use the information we collect from all of our services to provide, maintain, protect and improve them, to develop new ones, and to protect Google and our users. We also use this information to offer you tailored content – like giving you more relevant search results and ads.

We may use the name you provide for your Google Profile across all of the services we offer that require a Google Account. In addition, we may replace past names associated with your Google Account so that you are represented consistently across all our services. If other users already have your email, or other information that identifies you, we may show them your publicly visible Google Profile information, such as your name and photo.

We use information collected from cookies and other technologies, like pixel tags, to improve your user experience and the overall quality of our services. 

Many of our services let you share information with others. Remember that when you share information publicly, it may be indexable by search engines, including Google. Our services provide you with different options on sharing and removing your content.
So with all of these concerns the questions becomes:  Does the world need a Google beater?  Do we need a site or web property to keep Google in its place?  Does this come in the form of a competitor like Bing?  Or an upstart like Blekko?  Or will popular social environments such as Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest keep Google honest?  One thing is for sure, there is no "Google Killer" on the horizon.

Does the world need a Google?  Have we become so addicted to using Google and as a result become lazier in our quest for knowledge?  If Google was not around then would some other search engine replace them?  Would Yahoo or ASK or AOL or Microsoft (see MSN, Live Search, Bing et al) be the main player and would users be complaining about them?

I think we do need a Google.  For their sheer innovation alone.  I'm not saying that they should remain the dominant player in Search for eternity, but then again people don;t just use Google for their information needs.  We use Facebook, Twitter, CNN, CBC, TSN, Pinterest, YouTube (a Google property), vendor sites etc to find our information.  You have to admit that Google has done a pretty great job or organizing the Webs content.  Are they perfect?  Nope far from it, but they take more risks and are more innovative than most.  While I don't think that we need a Google-Beater, we definitely need Google alternatives.  In many ways, Google's dominance has resulted in questionable results and privacy concerns.  So we do need other web properties to step it up to help keep Google honest.  Whether that is a rival search engine such as Bing or Yahoo, or whether it is a new channel such as social media-type sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest, users do have options.

Google, I like you, but you cannot provide me with all of the information that I am looking for in the quickest manner when I look for it, all of the time.  An "A" for effort, but lately that effort has started to slip.  Are you the best option for my queries?  Well that depends on my query.  As the Web continues to become hyper-competitive and hyper-polluted, I need a resource to help me sift through this endless void of data.  For right now, Google you are this resource, for how long?  I am not entirely sure.

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posted by Jody @ 4:40 PM  
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