On with the show – part three of four

Step 3: Decentralize Search Engines

This one (and the next one) are a little crazy, I admit, but hear me out. Yahoo’s recent acquisition of del.icio.us and Flickr have the potential to be very interesting in the long run. These are companies that allow individuals to in essence create their own personalized search engines of Web sites and photos. I can tag a bunch of Web sites and then conduct a search of my own tags to find out what I felt was relevant (example: I tag a picture “Alaska fishing”, then I search Flickr for “Alaska Fishing” and voila the picture shows up).

Even more interestingly, if I start to generate a reputation as being a relevant tagger, other people may someday want to use my tagging system as their guide to the Internet. Pretty soon, perhaps there are thousands of people like me who spend hours each day tagging Web sites.

Sort of like Page Rank – where the more sites that link to your Web page the higher your relevancy in the Google Algorithm – except that in this case, there is less computerized algorithm and more of a collaborative filter based on human recommendations. Sort of like a democratized version of DMOZ.org. This “social networking search algorithm” could be a big blow to Google’s complex computerized algorithms. Google has invested millions in thousands of servers and top computer scientists. What happens if it turns out that people, working together, can actually create better search results than a computer?

This reminds me a little bit of Blockbuster Video. Blockbuster, in the early 90s, bragged to their investors that something like 90% of all Americans were no more than five miles from a Blockbuster location. In other words, Blockbuster argued that their competitive advantage was the sheer volume of brick-and-morter stores they operated. At the time, this was a pretty good argument.

Then came the Internet and NetFlix. Then “On Demand” cable. Suddenly, people didn’t want to drive to the store to get a video. It was so much easier to get one mailed to you, or better yet, to order one on your TV (and someday, of course, through your computer). Blockbuster’s real estate advantage was destroyed in a matter of years.

The same could be true for Google’s server-farm/smart engineer advantage. What happens if it turns out that fast computers and lots of nerds isn’t really the differentiator that Google thought?

Search engines ‘programmed’ by the masses – it could be a Google killer.

Tomorrow: The fourth and final chapter!


  1. Ajitesh December 27th, 2005

    Pretty interesting! I am sure Yahoo must be doing every bit to make Google bite the dust! But, I believe Yahoo is yet to come up with some good filtering techniques when search results are concerned currently. Every day gone is a missed opportunity. Trust needs time and if time is wasted , money is wasted and so is trust. So, with everything that Yahoo is google, they should also keep working on making their search techiniques a bit stronger..All the best to Yahoo!..cheers Ajitesh ( http://ndrai.blogspot.com )

  2. Steve December 28th, 2005

    Hey David – As I always I read your comments with great interest, and thought this was a particularly good one. Were you inspired by The Wisdom of Crowds? That book describes a general theory of collective intelligence that would lead one to the same conclusion you’ve reached. It also makes one wonder about other Google products and the extent to which they could be supplanted by a distributed analog.

  3. Manzoor Khan December 28th, 2005

    The main strenght of Google lies in its capacity to innovate. Though the concept of searhc engines was not perpetuated by Google gang, but Google definitely adopted the innovative way of running the searh engine. To start with, Google was only and only a search engine. It was NOT a portal with an add-on facility to search the web. Search was not just USP, but the core business of Google Inc. For a prolonged time, Google didn’t bother to foray into anything else. They had a good focus.

    Now, think of their other offerrings: Google Earth, Blogspot, Google Maps, Google Print, Image Search, etc are all highly innovative ideas. Google was pioneer in all these areas.

    Besides the innovation part, Google does the everyone’s business all the more better. Their Advanced Search feature is fabuluos, Picassa is cool; Google supports Internationalization extensively (who else would let me search in Urdu -:)

    And, finally, Google has a smart advertising program: AdSense, which I believe fetches it good revenue.

    The gyan one can get from Google experience is: try to be a pioneer than being follower, and if a follower, then do it differently from others and carve a niche (Google Talk is different from all other instant messengers we have today).

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David Rodnitzky
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates), a position he has held since the Company's inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digital, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including Rentals.com (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up. David is a regular speaker at major digital marketing conferences and has contributed to numerous influential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and NPR's Marketplace. David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.