Some buzz centered on Robert Scoble’s contention that properties like Facebook and human-edited search engine Mahalo add up to a Google-free future misses out on an important factor.
Editor’s Note: The promise of human-powered search results has ex-Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble excited about the futures of Facebook, Mahalo, and others. Can a third party upend Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft in search, or will they simply code around and past what the upstarts want to accomplish?
When you spend a lot of time working around the tech industry, it’s easy to get caught up in the belief that a truly innovative or useful product will turn the world around on its axis. It just doesn’t happen all that often.
Scoble refers to Facebook, Mahalo, and Techmeme as technologies destined to upend the Google apple cart in the next four years. He calls these services “SEO-resistant,” making the assumption that such a quality equals superior results.
He may well be right about this. Answers driven by an expert should be better than a keyword search, unless of course the expert’s answers show up at the top of the search results (perhaps getting there through SEO, too.) Then they are no better or worse than dropping a query into a search engine.
There’s more at work with search engine usage than just the quality of their results. Search engines have usability that we like to call the ‘television factor.’ Dropping a query into a traditional search engine is easy, just type and hit a button.
Getting the most out of Facebook means putting work into it. For the young college set that formed its original userbase, time isn’t as scarce a commodity as it is for people even a year or two out of school, or longer.
It’s not as easy as hitting a button on a remote.
Criticizing SEO has come easily to many. Danny Sullivan, in his reaction on Search Engine Land to Scoble’s videos, delivered the most stinging response he’s ever posted:
Want to be like Robert — and Jason Calacanis — and keep equating SEO with spam? Then f*&k off.
I don’t think I’ve ever used the F-word in any of my writing, and my apologies for being so crass. But I’ve had enough of people trying to advance their own personal agendas (Jason hoping someone will care about Mahalo; Robert hoping someone will watch his videos) on the back of an industry that is full of plenty of people who do good work.
We like Mahalo and Techmeme, but it just isn’t difficult to imagine one of the big four search engines duplicating what they do as the concept of universal search takes a mantra-like hold in the thoughts and work of those engines’ research labs.
That easy button click isn’t going away. It’s not technology or even quality that Scoble’s touted trio have to overcome. It’s inertia and the television factor. They are tough to beat when trying to reach enough momentum to upend traditional search.