The only chance Microsoft and Yahoo have against Google

… is by harnessing the social web

Kids, bare in mind, no essay should ever start with the conclusion. But maybe if I do so this message could get to the ears of the so-called corporate strategists of M&Y. Maybe the good friend of mine who works for Yahoo or the other guys I know who work for Microsoft will forward it to those in charge.

[image source :]

Microsoft just announced they once again rebrand their search page. It used to be MSN search, then they rebranded it as like a year ago or so. And now they want to change it again, to Kumo (whf? Kumo? sounds like Cum-Oh to me…). But the name is not important – even if the rebranding works and people will go to Kumo instead of, it’s still going to be just 2 people doing this – Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. The rest of the world will use Google, because it’s really more useful. No way Microsoft(of Yahoo; I’ll just use M&Y for these two throughout this rant) can ever be able to compete with Google on this front. It’s like nazi Germany going through Siberia to conquer Russia. Won’t work – Russia is too damn big, it has a strong foothold, is on its home-ground, has bigger and better infrastructure.

But guess what: it doesn’t matter. Because there’s another way M&Y can strike back and have a standing chance: Social Web, you got this? Harnessing; exploiting it. Making use of it.

The web is changing. The REAL Web is changing.

There are two World Wide Webs out there: the first one is made of web pages. The second one is made of useful web pages. Web pages that people actually use(or find useful) are a lot fewer than those in the first one. The first web is owned by Google – they claimed at one point an index size of 1 trillion pages. But it’s a moot point – like saying that Google knows all the planets in the galaxy. For astronomy fans this could be useful, but most of humankind would appreciate knowing really well just one: Earth.

People no longer do web research by looking at your trillion pages index. The first 5 Google results on almost any important topic goes to Wikipedia, blogs or famous newspapers(usually in this order). Sometimes they also go to Amazon, Youtube, Craigslist, Ebay. You know, online websites that people really use, along with their favorite online tools and services, or their favorite socializing places(Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc). We usually call this the social web. And, off course, the social web is a lot smaller. Way, way smaller. Millions of times smaller.

Let these words stick into your head, mr Ballmer: social web is what people really use.

There’s no real search engine major player in the social web

Hasn’t it occurred to anyone over at M&Y that there’s no great blog search service out there? It used to be Technorati, but they got lazy and stopped improving. Then Google Blog Search appeared, but they simply didn’t want to make something good people could actually use. I’d switch any day to the web search engine that was bright enough to search through all the blogs (Technorati says they are 133 million – a lot less than 1 trillion, right?) and come with good meaningful answers mixed with the classic web search of a million or so relevant websites out there.

It wouldn’t have to be a search engine for all the pages on the web – no one ever looks at the third page of results on Google. Relevance would be easily inferred from trackbacks, links, Twitter/Facebook/Friendfeed references, votes on Stumbleupon or Digg, etc. Important content would be pulled from blogs, Wikipedia, Squidoo, Mahalo, and other human operated content providers.

I’d run to this search engine any minute, since Google simply doesn’t cut it for me anymore. I’m a human, I live and interact on the social web. I don’t need one trillion pages for my search results; I only want the best ones, the ones people actually use(not the billions automatically generated by spammy websites).

If anyone at Google reads this, please keep it in mind : if you want to create a better search engine than Google currently has, the point is to stop indexing trillions of automatically-generated pages and focus on the ones that real people write and use. They are a lot fewer, and much more important. And please make Blogsearch something real people would actually want to use.

PS. The subtitle says that there’s no major player, that’s because there’s a lot more to do on the social web than simply searching. Reading or writing blogs, for instance – and Google does have a strong foothold here, but not as strong as the search engine deal. The guys at Yahoo could probably write a better online blog reader, if only they stopped getting fired. Same goes for making yourself a free blog – Yahoo 360 sucks, so do Microsoft’s live spaces. Which only leaves the world with and – M&Y could probably clone these in a few months, if only they wanted. But the mighty ones are just too blind to see or hear the people…

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super articol scris de @alexbrie – a possible winning strategy for M&Y against G

adleras says:

first of all: Google announced the launch of SearchWiki. this way the users will save their favourite and most used sites at the top of the list.

2nd: there will always be niches with many more sites than the ones in your social web 🙂 users are not only looking to have fun online. (myspace, facebook, friendfeed, etc etc)

the fufure, in my opinion, doesn’t belong only to blogs.

there are many other points of view , but i dont have time to mention all of them.

one last point: if google would have bough SecondLife like they wanetd in the first place and wouldnt have created Lively (which now they’ve just closed) it would have been a lot better. I think SecondLife will be a major part of the future web.

Alex says:

haven’t you heard?
1. search wiki sucks: a. it only reorders your own results, not website priorities and not other users results. b. it’s spammable.

2. Lively will be shut down in december. Even Google realized it’s not worth it.

3. Second Life is falling apart. Plus, SL is a program, not a web. You wouldn’t call WoW a Web, would you?

… and to simply address your comment: sure, there will always be niches; and Google won’t be able to find them either(actually he can, but they will be on the 5th page of results). However, blogs and Wikipedia often represent the best starting point in exploring these niches…

adleras says:

SearchWiki its just at the beginning and i am sure it will get a lot better. It was tested for one year in google labs before it was launched.

Lively was a failure from the beginning, as a secondlife user I couldnt not notice that from the very first start. I hoped it will get better but it didnt (this may also happen to searchwiki)

SecondLife its by far the biggest virtual world (more than 15 mil registered users, WoW has 11 mil). Its not really a game and u cant really compare it to WoW in details. The advantage that SecondLife has its the fact that the users can create anything they want, the only limit they have its their imagination. Everything u get in the normal world wide web u can get also in SecondLife in a 3d environment. It is considered by many the future web.

Getting back to your article, the niches in google are very important. If an user wants to find out more about “car rental in Bucharest” he will search for “rent a car”, “rent a car bucharest”, “car rental Bucharest” etc… and I am sure he will find the websites optimised for these keywords on the first page, not on the 5th. I am sure a normal users who needs car rental services wont start searching from a blog or from wiki.

You must see google searching from the perspective of a regular user..not from ours (he’s not spending at least 8 hours per day surfing the web)

Alex says:

I see your point and we actually are on the same line of thought. My article tries to emphasize that there’s no way someone could create a better(as in powerful, accurate or broad) search engine than Google’s. But users don’t always want search, or if they do they most frequently are satisfied by the first 5 results.
For those occasions where users might want different kinds of search, M&Y do stand a chance.

They can start from niche search – lifestreams, blogs, news, photos(?), social network search, from niche products(why don’t they have a great content publishing online tool (like uberVu’s, or blogging tool? or reader? or docs?) and try to have some dominant products. Googling is just a part of people’s online experience; there’s a lot more stuff people do online; however, neither Yahoo nor Microsoft seem to have any idea what to do about it.

adleras says:

I understand ur point of view but in my opinion this wont be an alternative way for M&Y to become as “powerfull” as Google. Such a service probably would be very used but cant get the trafic Google is getting from its searchengine.

andrey91 says:

foarte sugestiva poza

CH says:

There are a few problems with your solution, the first being that you do not propose an incentive for various entities that store that social web data ( links, Twitter/Facebook/Friendfeed references, votes on Stumbleupon or Digg, etc…) to fork over data so that M&Y can create their super-duper search engine. From everything I have seen yet these social web players (Digg, etc…) are forking over data only in exchange for a cut of marketing revenues (you can see some data exchange between Facebook and Digg here : As you can see the social web is pretty fragmented, and while some mechanism for aggregating these fragments may appear (probably running over splitting ads revenue), the idea that data will be forked over gratis to M&Y is pretty ludicrous.
Secondly, the idea M&Y can mine efficiently this data from the outside with their super-duper search engine is just as ludicrous because they have access to data in an unstructed way (they are simply parsing HTML pages) while this data is actually structured (Digg, Stumbleupon, etc… are probably using some tabular way of storing data). The difference between structured data (the type that would make a BI analyst drool) and un-structured data is the difference between an eficient data-mining algorithm which can take advantage of pre-defined relationships and one which is largely based on guess-work and a fair amount of reverse-engineering. These relationships are what Facebook is paying for when entering a deal with Digg in addition to the actual data.

My .02USD,


Alex says:

I never said social web search was easy. But for public sites(unlike Facebook), giving some extra attention towards major websites(I said Digg, but it could be Yahoo Buzz) and providing relevant and useful results.. should be easier than blindly following Google in the race for “biggest irrelevant index size”.

[…] exista “afara”. Doar ca uneori nu merge. Dupa cum am mai povestit-o in articolul despre Microsoft, Yahoo, Google si Social Web: pentru a reusi sa mai detronezi Google de pe pozitia fruntasa, trebuie sa te pozitionezi […]

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