Kevin Hale has written an article at ParticleTree which talks about the increasing importance of RSS, which in effect means the importance of subscription-based information consumption (as opposed to search). This has profound implications for the business model of, say, Google because it reduces the relevance of plain old searching – people are already having a certain amount of their customised information needs met automatically.
I’ve noticed that on my blog, about 50% of the referrals come from Google and 50% from technorati. I would imagine that for most blogs with semantic tagging functionality, this would be roughly the same.
Around two years ago, the picture was completely different – almost every referrer was google (with a few from yahoo search, msn search etc.). This shows that the “push” model of publishing, and the “aggregation” model of reading, is really taking off.
Within a short time, will we be typing in “christina_aguilera” as a social tag rather than a Google search term? Google, it seems, is trying to make that question irrelevant. Those at the forefront of web technology believe that Google is working on a system to unify basic search and the semantic keywords usually associated with sites like del.icio.us and technorati. This is, not coincidentally, why I chose to register (syn).onymo.us – tag unification. Semantic browsing. Imagine typing in a word and being able to navigate, not just via the usual links, but also through the dimensions of meaning created by tagging: Start at “Royalty”, navigate to “Empire”, “Rome”, “Italy”, “Pasta”, “Atkins Diet” and so on.
You could develop a seriously awesome browsing experience if that was the case. But wait a second – how do you create that seamless semantic browsing experience without some ghastly frames-based abomination that breaks half the web? You would need some sort of rich client-based front end.
Google has hired some Mozilla.org developers, so one can only assume that they’re serious about releasing browser-integrated functionality. The also have an IE toolbar team in there somewhere, because they released the Googlebar for IE. What we’ll probably see, in my completely irrelevant opinion, is Googlebars (or even whole new main toolbar buttons, right next to “back”, “forward” and “stop”) which provide intuitive ways to browse the web by topic.
So Google, while you’re at it, can I request something? Trust relationships. An easy way to say “this person knows their shit” or “this person is full of shit” (or a spammer) and have that information aggregate through my existing trust network to others who think I’m not full of shit. That way, spammers will be relegated to trust “islands” (unless they can somehow hijack the system) while the rest of us build strong social links that increase the quality of the browsing and aggregation experience.
By storing and propagating trust information (and I realise what a hurdle it will be to convince the tinfoil hat brigade that this isn’t the beginning of World War III on privacy), Google can maintain and extend its relevance beyond simple search.
If they don’t do it, someone else will do it via P2P and within 5 years they’ll disappear.
Ok, that last bit was just me being provocative 😉
p.s. Also, please please include some kind of rich support for geographic browsing – and I don’t just mean “where’s the nearest pizza joint”, I mean “what events are happening in a particular region between these dates”, or “who carpools between these locations at 8am from monday to
friday?. I know, I’m a whiner.
Update: I just noticed that Yahoo’s Y!Q service does something similar to what I’m talking about with the toolbar. They also provide an example web page with Y!Q integrated. It’s quite cute, but Yahoo’s branding is less appealing and subtle than Google’s. I know that _shouldn’t_ be important, but it is. If using Y!Q means having a whacking great floating div appear over your website rendered in vomitous purple and yellow, then how many serious websites are going to do it?