Google search is a staple to anyone’s internet diet like rice or bread. It’s the food with calories to sustain you and keep your body moving through the day but is it the main dish? I know you’re thinking, “but is there anything other than Google?”. To an extent it’s true that there’s no better way of finding stuff than Google but if we look closely, Google is far from our main dish. At least if you spend an ungodly amount of time on the web as most of us do.
Google to me is like a smart missile. It’s great for nailing it when you more or less know the coordinates of your target. I find the most utility from Google as an API lookup (for obscure programming stuff) or even as a phone directory (“Where’s the party held at?”) kind of stuff. It’s really like a massive encyclopedia to me (also all the reference stuff simply links back to Wikipedia). Which is why it’s hard for me to feel a sense of discovery or even excitement when using Google. It’s a boring work horse.
Sometimes it can be tedious too. We all have those “strange itch” searches that also happen to conflict with dictionary words. Try the search for “rails” as an example. It’s hard to imagine everyone on the web that searches for “rails” means the “web framework” and not something related to trains. Such is Google.
It also breaks down when you’re looking for a specific subset of information or when you’ve already got a grasp of what you’re looking for and want something more specialized. It’s probably why people use Technorati to search blogs and other vertical searches that meets their needs better.
A lot of people were surprised that Jason Calacanis would launch Main Page – Mahalo a human-powered search. Like what’s next hamster-powered servers? Still if we look more closely all the exciting stuff happening on the web today outside of Google’s realm is human-powered information services. Social news sites like Digg leverage eager and well-informed users to provide relevant but diverse news and information. Wikipedia (though they’ve got a couple frauds) basically allow well-informed or research savvy “experts” to collaborate effectively to distill knowledge.
Smart people like Niall Kennedy are doing things in the realm like his Startup Search. We’re at a stage where we know we want more from the web but just haven’t seen any viable alternative or earth-shaking paradigm shift.
There’s an Australian startup that tries to provide users with a truly “live” search that serves you relevant results in real time.
MyLiveSearch is fundamentally different. It works through a small browser plug-in. The search terms are put through Google, or other indexed search databases, but those results are treated as “starting points” alongside the user’s bookmarks and other popular web hubs.
From there, the live search takes over, crawling through hundreds of web pages connected to those starting points in search of more information relevant to the search.
Mr Gabriel says the results come back in seconds, and are almost always richer, more detailed and more useful than a standard, index-based search. His product can also search the so-called “invisible web” of dynamically-generated web pages that search engines have trouble indexing.
I think it’ll only be a matter of time before we see a “search meets social” paradigm shift. Something that’s more organic and relevant than indexed search like Google but not labor-intensive in the least.