Internet Search Futures: Lessons from The Pursuit of Dominance
This strategic lesson comes from a strategy that by its very size precludes serious consideration of alternatives. Firms that don’t have the vision to challenge their own assumptions will falter. The big search firms hold strategic positions tied too closely to their own success. More importantly, to each other’s successes as the primary model of competitive positioning. This can stifle creativity and the adoption of new ideas because the benchmark becomes the strategies of the few competitors, not the innovations that still exist in the blue space of untested ideas, which will eventually be tested by new entrants, and thus disruptive and destructive to incumbents.
The robot that goes through your desk and discovers just what you want when you want it, seems like the ideal invention. That is until you want something else next to it or like it, and then you have to send your robot out to look for that too. As I was pondering this “feature” recently, I was struck by a bigger industry question: are investments in advertising-based Internet search by Google, Microsoft and others impeding the development of better information management tools? I think the answer is YES!
Internet search is very successful, but for day-to-day work, I find it pretty useless. It doesn’t use the metadata in my system, or across my web of associations to help me cluster and organize, reveal and suggest. It just does what IBM”s chess programs do for chess—put a brut force algorithm in place to single-mindedly go after the piece of information that I happen to have top of mind. And it returns results often paid for, and almost certainly gamed, to arrive at the top of the list.
Internet Search Futures
My machine, my Net-life, however, is much richer than the last thing I asked for. If my machine, the web, my information providers, paid as much attention to what I was doing, as they do to where I have been (in order to suggest ads to me) then they might actually suggest meaningful information to me, either from my own collection or from elsewhere. My metadata can inform my experience.
I believe the future of information management is overdue for technological disruption, and all of this pandering to advertising-driven Internet search will seem meaningless, and the business models built around them so trivial and confining, as soon as information starts finding you.
2022 comment: So not yet. but it is still coming. Disruption can take time.
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