The Next Battle: Enabling Information To Find You — Or Why Yahoo/Microsoft Is A Distraction

from the helping-information-find-you dept

I have to admit, I wasn’t going to write anything at all about the Yahoo/Microsoft search deal. It honestly seemed pretty pointless — much bluster about nothing at all of importance. After talking it over with an editor at Forbes, however, I agreed to write up an op-ed for them about why the deal is misguided, and I wanted to expand on one part of that here. I just don’t think there’s very much interesting in fighting the last battle over “search” rather than looking at where things are headed. And, on that front, I noted:

People are discovering that information finds them, rather than them going in search of information. Search already works. The next interesting challenge is in improving the way information finds you, rather than the way you find information.

That is the key point that innovators in the internet space are starting to figure out. Information is much more powerful when it finds you (for example, when it’s passed along by someone you trust). But that information doesn’t just find you by itself. The internet helps, in making it easy to pass along a link or some text — or to share/embed/etc. some content. But the tools for sharing information need to improve drastically, and that’s where the next excitement will come from. It’s in enabling relevant information to find you rather than the other way around. And, Yahoo/Microsoft has nothing to do with that at all.

Separately, this is also why I think sites that are trying to lock up content behind paywalls or limited access are making things worse. They’re doing the opposite of where the internet is moving. They’re making it harder for their information to find you, and they’ll discover that this will lock them out of much of the opportunity.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: microsoft, yahoo

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “The Next Battle: Enabling Information To Find You — Or Why Yahoo/Microsoft Is A Distraction”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Walled Gardens are beautiful...

for those that want to live inside them. But almost everybody that lives in that walled garden will eventually want to see the world outside. And when they find that they can’t they will get mad.

The internet is the exact opposite of a Walled Garden and any business that uses the internet that doesn’t understand that won’t make it for long.

Randy Mann says:

Find me? No thanks

This sounds like advertising buzzword horsecrap. The whole point of advertising is people telling you to buy stuff. If someone wants or needs something, they’re plenty capable of going and finding out about it, there’s no need for someone to push more crap on you. For ads (erm, “content”) to find you, the pusher has to know you, which leads to tracking and profiling and the whole privacy mess, all related to the current downward spiral of the internet.

Thom says:

Who ya kiddin?

I have to disagree on one point. Search DOESN’T work. It’s broken, and very horribly so. The best case being good ole’ Google itself. There was a day when almost every search I ran provided me with multiple relevent results and I rarely had to refine my searchs or go beyond a couple pages, unless I needed move variety rather than relevence. Sadly, that was already rapidly going downhill even as Google’s impending IPO was all the talk. Today, Google still sits among the best search engines, but it completely sucks compared to what it was five to eight years ago. Too much spam, too much noise, too much crud. It’s not Google’s fault, other than the inability to eliminate it from their indexes, but still it counts. Search sucks. It most definitely doesn’t work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Who ya kiddin?

So what do you do to find information on the internet?

If search “doesn’t work” then that means you find information on the internet by not using a search engine.

“Doesn’t work” is not the same as “sucks”. My car sucks, but it still works in getting me to my job and back.

I wanted to find more information about London being mapped out with Warcraft 2 sprites… London Warcraft 2 search came up with relevant articles. What are you searching for?

Thom says:

Re: Re: Who ya kiddin?

Umm, yeah, and you can read words well, but you can’t understand what you read thus you suck at reading.

Remember Mike’s comment that “search already works?” Within the context of this article he’s implying that search works very well, not that it works but kinda sucks, and that’s why the next battle is enabling information to find you.

I, on the other hand, am saying that search doesn’t work – exactly because it doesn’t work well – and that until it does the next battle will remain in improving search.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Who ya kiddin?

Search more often that not more than kinda sucks, it doesn’t “work” as well as it should, and there is potential for a new competitor to over time push Google out of the way.

Google’s insistence to fix things “in the algo” means that they rarely apply human eyes to check popular searches, which means that spam, misdirection, and outright scams are often what greets a surfer. It might end up pushing more clicks to Google ads (good for google) but over time it might undermine the public’s interest in using Goog, especially if better results are known to be found elsewhere.

I don’t want information to find me. I’ll go look for it when I need it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Well, in order to improve information they’re going to have to improve the quality of chatterbots so that chatterbots can diagnose patients upon a conversation with a doctor or so that a chatterbot can help someone with his/her homework.

Also I find it interesting how it raised anti trust issues when Google and Yahoo tried to work together but it all of a sudden raises no anti trust issues when Microsoft and Yahoo work together. Perhaps Microsoft spends more money on lobbying? I think just goes to show you that this whole anti – trust thing isn’t being being used for preventing monopolies, rather, it’s more about politics.

Anon 2 says:

Re: Re:

Well, in order to improve information they’re going to have to improve the quality of chatterbots so that chatterbots can diagnose patients upon a conversation with a doctor or so that a chatterbot can help someone with his/her homework.

I cringe whenever someone thinks it’s a good idea to automate away entire professions like doctors or teachers.

Curious Bystander says:

Finding me...

Information finding me is an interesting concept. Information already “finds me” by my use of Google Alerts. This concept has a certain “then a miracle occurs” ring to it. It sounds to me that if I want information to “find me” I’ll need to advertise what I am interested in so ‘it’ will know. All-in-all this sounds like social networking hyperbole.

As already stated, those walling up information will die!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Finding me...

Well, as others stated, there’s RSS feeds. Techdirt finds me everyday more than I find it. I don’t read Fark to “find” certain information, I just go there to see what will find me.

In a sense, it’s more like the old internet. The internet before Google, you just browsed around to see what was there. With Google, you know what you’re looking for, so you search for it. After Google, you watch a few things you like so they’ll tell you about more things you like so you can subscribe to information that comes to you without a blind search.

Ryan says:

Re: Re: Finding me...

Right, everybody seems to think Mike is referring to spyware popping up advertisements for penis pumps and stuff…really? That’s what you all got out of the article?

He referenced some of what he’s referring to specifically, but the kind of stuff he means is Twitter, Facebook, RSS, customized home pages, etc. Personalize what you’re interested in, then let it come to you in feeds and aggregators. I don’t know how much this is the new frontier–if it will replace a significant amount of search’s utility–but the article is very clearly not talking about pop-up adds for penis pumps while you’re browsing…??

Randy Mann says:

more on Finding me...

Does RSS even count, since you had to subscribe to it in the first place? That’s like a snail-mail catalogue “finding” you because you requested that they send it to you.

Before Google there were a host of other search engines. There were even search engines that searched other search engines. But before search, there were still ways beyond just browsing around. Lists of usenet groups, Topical BBSs, etc.

A bit more on topic, I don’t see much coming out of this other than a bit more of the shaft to the people who still use their services. The default Microsoftians wont care, because they don’t even understand what they’re doing. The old Yahooligans will just get data mined by MS as well as Yahoo, and probably a few more ads, and yet another search engine change. The anti-trust would be more pressing if they actually had a chance to succeed, or do anything. As it is, it’s just kids playing in the mud.

Free Capitalist says:

Where's the Cash?

There has never been a battle over “search”… the battle has always been for search-advertising dollars (yes I’m talking about the paid links again. They really do exist, people. Its how these guys make money, and its how they survive.

To a corporation, relevance is irrelevant unless there is profit to be made. While information feed methods such as RSS are excellent for a user, the only major corporate efforts underway are pinned to tying advertising dollars to the information which ‘found’ you.

Follow the money, therein will be the business plan and the shape of the future to come (nope, I do not think this always results in the best outcome for individuals).

The Yahoo-MS deal is about increasing market share in a multi-billion dollar industry. Pretty standard. Wherever information retrieval goes in the future, the players will use their existing systems, or develop new systems to tie-in advertising.

Free Capitalist says:

Re: Re: Where's the Cash?

And an irrelevant corporation is ignored by consumers, meaning it will not make any profit. First you need people to consume your product, then you find a way to monetize it best.

True enough, though I would argue that you can try to monetize at any point in your business strategy that makes sense — the sooner the better, obviously. It all depends on your specific business.

The only catch to what you’re saying is the case where a vital service (such as electricity, or search and information retrieval) is under the control of a monopoly.
Cable companies and utilities have shown us that corporations which are effectively ‘entitled’ to their customers have little concern over anything except squeezing as much as possible from their clients while providing the very least possible in terms of product.

Mark Blafkin (profile) says:

You're Mostly Right About Search, But This Ain't About That...

I think you’re analysis of the search market is pretty spot on. I don’t know if the new models supplant search, but they certainly have the ability to become significant in the future.

But as I just wrote over at the ACT blog, this deal isn’t really about search.

It’s about Search Advertising, with a heavy emphasis on “advertising.” From a business perspective, Search is little more than a vehicle for advertising. Search may not be the future of how people find information online, but it seems pretty clear that advertising will be a critical part of how the Internet funds itself for the foreseeable future.

Most of the first day analysis, however, has focused on what this deal means for the less relevant market for search. Yet, the real question is whether it gives both companies a foot in the door with large advertisers, to which they can provide integrated advertising solutions that span search, banner ads, and newer “human-seeking information projectile” platforms. If so, then the efficacy of this deal looks a lot different…doesn’t it, Mike?

Free Capitalist says:

Re: You're Mostly Right About Search, But This Ain't About That...

Agreed. If it were not for the money, there would no corporations playing this game at all.

What Yahoo-MS are *trying to do does make sense in a forward-looking, or at least present-aware, context. Whether they actually stand a chance at significantly cutting into Google’s market share of the ad dollars is something only time will tell.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...