I recently wrote a lengthy post about how content is flooding the web, and it's becoming increasingly difficult for any one search engine (including Google) to keep up and deliver the best possible results at all times. Google does a great job for a lot of queries, but the company knows it needs to get better. That's why they're putting a new focus on content farms.
With existing content farms aiming to greatly expand, it seems that it will only become increasingly hard for Google to keep a variety of sources among its top results for any given query when a few select brands are pumping out so much content. Google has indicated it's looking to solve the content farm problem algorithmically, as opposed to the human-edited style of Blekko, which recently banned 20 of the top content farm sites.
In my previous post, I said that as companies are rushing to create ways of filtering out the noise of an ever-increasing amount of content, the search space may become more competitive than it's been in a long time. Bing is trying its hardest to give Google a run for its money in search market share, but companies like Blekko and DuckDuckGo are bringing different ideas to the table.
It's unlikely that you'll see either of these achieve Google-like domination of the market, but I do think they represent a bigger picture view of the space, illustrating that that there is room for more ideas based on different concepts.
Google needs to get social search right to be the most effective it can be. Unfortunately without Facebook data, it doesn't seem like it will ever be able to truly give users the best social results, as Facebook is clearly the dominant social network with about 600 million users. For many people, the majority of their online social behavior happens in Facebook. Their real friends are on Facebook, so if they want to search for a topic, and have any mentions of said topic from their actual friends, Facebook data is important.
Google recognizes the need for this kind of information. The company recently bought fflick, a tool that lets you search for movie titles and brings back results from your Twitter friends. This kind of search can be extremely effective. The service was reportedly expected to expand to other verticals besides movies, and it's easy to see such a feature being useful within regular Google search, although for now, Google is keeping the fflick team within YouTube. That could change. But as long as Facebook friends aren't part of the equation, it will never be as effective as it could be (unless people stop using Facebook and only start using Twitter, which doesn't seem like a likely scenario for the foreseeable future).
Enter Greplin. We talked about Greplin back in September when it was new. Greplin is truly personalized search. While still in its early stages, there is a lot of potential in Greplin's concept. It lets you search across a multitude of services that you use (you can add the ones you want it to include in your searches). This means you get results from the services you use.
Imagine being able to search across your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Gmail connections, along with feeds you've subscribed to in Google Reader, your own Google Docs, your own Google Calendar, etc. Here's what they've got so far (as well as what they'll have soon):
One can only imagine that the number of supported services will only increase. This could be pretty useful for cutting through the noise. Greplin sent users an email today talking about some new features. New updates include (as listed in the email):
- Data updates much faster: in seconds for email and minutes for almost everything else
- Google Apps accounts are now supported. More sites coming soon
- Search results now include pictures, links, attachments, threading and more
- We added advanced query options including "to:someone", "has:attachment", and "has:link"
- Our new mobile-optimized version is available when visiting from your phone
One can't help but wonder if Greplin is on Google's acquisition radar, considering the acquisition spree the company has been on of late. If the functionality of Greplin was incorporated into Google, how useful would it be? As a standalone service Greplin can't be the be-all search engine, but as part of Google, it could be really powerful (plus it's already searching across numerous Google services, which seems like a logical option for Google to include anyway). Greplin has similarities to fflick, but with an more all-encompassing approach.
Of course, Greplin doesn't need Google to be useful. Once it gets more feature rich, it might be out there with the Blekkos and the DuckDuckGos as an attractive search alternative. Not as a contender for search market share dominance, but simply as another vertical chipping away at single search engine dominance. Or maybe another company will try to acquire it.