My Why of SearchWiki

by Ruud Hein December 5th, 2008 

Traduction francaise: Pourquoi SearchWiki Existe

Google's main objective is to defend itself against a repetition of its own past: to prevent disruptive technology in the widest sense of the idea to upset its place as The Google.

To do so Google relies heavily on two strategies: barrier to entry and acquisition.

Barrier to Entry: Raising the Bar

Due to Google's known strength – it's incredibly cheap super computer power which is incredibly expensive for others to compete with – Google becomes the investment default simply by entering a market, making most or all of the other players look like "also-ran".

When the choice of investment of time (user) or money (investor) is between an established "we're not going anywhere soon" giant entity with a no-cost product model or a "what was their name again?" startup or also-ran, most investment will go to the giant.

Add to that the Portal Effect, where providing features and content that are or are perceived as True Need Fulfillment increases the amount of time invested by the user in the services provided simply because of ease of use, and Google immediately captures a significant amount of users.

Acquisition: Buying the Bar

Raising the barrier to entry obviously works best in a preemptive manner: once a competitor is firmly seated it too starts to benefit from cumulative growth and strength.

If the perceived danger is big enough Google will then buy the competition. The single best example of this is YouTube which by the time that Google finally launched Google Video had become the de facto video sharing standard. Video sharing a la YouTube was unprecedented. YouTube was disruptive technology at its best; no-one saw it coming.

Google bought YouTube.

Today, YouTube receives more search queries than Yahoo. If you look at search engine use and count YouTube as one, Google is #1 and YouTube is #2…

Wikipedia & Social Search

When Wikipedia tagged all its outgoing links as "no-follow", keeping all the link power of millions upon millions of incoming links to itself, it overnight changed from a cute, rather large yet somewhat obscure fringe project into a de facto standard answer for thousands of searches.

I believe that that situation is unacceptable to Google and considered to be a real threat.

"Unfortunately", the Wikipedia situation sort of snug up to Google and, by turning its links to no-follow, jumped out at it quite suddenly and completely unexpected.

With the damage done, pre-emptive raising of the barrier to entry is out of the question – as is acquisition; Wikipedia is not for sale.

So, it seemed, Knol was launched to compete with Wikipedia.

Yeah. Right.

We all know Knol isn't going to be anywhere near Wikipedia. Knol is to Wikipedia what Google Answers was to Yahoo! Answers.

Knol is essentially a distraction, stealing a little bit of Wikipedia's thunder and, and this is more important, giving people another place to go and do what they want to do: provide authoritative content. You know how authoritative? It basically can't be edited "just like that" by the next passer-by. That alone makes it interesting to a whole bunch of people. End users? No, again, Knol is a distraction for content providers who otherwise would be at Wikipedia (or nowhere).

SearchWiki on the other hand is aimed at the (more advanced) end user: those "smart enough" to have a Google account and be logged in. Simply by being there it provides searchers a "good enough" social search place. It doesn't need to be new, revolutionary, widely used or not; it just needs to prevent people from having to go elsewhere.

To quote Philipp Lenssen from his post about some of Google's internal documents:

If Google’s “release frenzy” often appears chaotic from the outside, their internal goals do look very precise and organized… and almost every goal has a number attached to it, even when it’s a seemingly fuzzy area like user happiness.

Additional reading:

Googleopoly II Google's Predatory Playbook to Thwart Competition (PDF) (Scott Cleland)
Google SearchWiki 101: An Illustrated Guide (Danny Sullivan)
Q&A With Google On SearchWiki (Danny Sullivan)

Traduction francaise: Pourquoi SearchWiki Existe

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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12 Responses to “My Why of SearchWiki”

  1. Utah SEO says:

    I'm trying to think how many time I search for the same stuff over n over. Not often.

  2. Great post Ruud, good insights! I agree with most of us "experts" that it is no bueno. Most people NEED to be told where to go and do not know enough on their own. We need Google to tell us what is most relevant. And when you corner your SERPS to frequent sites you lose out on new and better possibilities.

  3. Ruud Hein says:

    @Jordan Navigational queries come to mind. I'm on Chrome and use the address bar to find my bookmark, last visited site *or* do a nav search all.the.time. But I think the searchWiki's intent is to serve another purpose.

  4. SEO Company says:

    Very nicely written. Google is resisting all sorts of competition over its market share on a basic principle : If you can't tame it, eat it.
    Rif Chia

  5. Judit says:

    That is the way how it goes when you have monopole position on the market. Google has it and it takes of all advantages of it.

  6. Thought provoking Ruud, It just seems that there a re so many possibility of what one can do with the data gathered from the serps. It so hard to say what they will do with the data….

  7. Dr. Pete says:

    It really does seem like Google is trying to play catch-up with SearchWiki, and the intentions behind it are unclear. Maybe it will become more apparent over time, but I just don't get the value at this point.

    It does beg the question, though: if Google is so concerned about Wikipedia, why do they grant the site such high authority? They have complete control over that throttle.

  8. Ruud Hein says:

    @Dr. Pete Re. value at this point: just an alternative :) As for high authority, I think Wikipedia *is* a good starting point for many queries. It's also non-commercial. That leaves only 9 other results on a page to "worry" about. I think providing a good result *and* doing that while not having to worry the first result is a scraper (*could* happen with Google ;) )is a good deal for Google, no?

  9. drpete says:

    @Ruud – I always seem to get Wikipedia entries when I'm doing something like searching for "Brown's Chicken" because I'm hungry, but maybe that's just me :)

  10. I don't think that Wikipedia is threat to Google. If they really felt that Wikipedia was the best answer for almost every search they could integrate a OneBox result with scraped Wikipedia content, which would be enough to satisfy most users without actually leaving Google.

  11. Abdulrehman says:

    Excellent article to supplement the development of Knol. I also wondered for a while why Wikipedia was showing up so high in the searches. Well, even their external related links are nofollow, else people would have really taken advantage of this!

    Plus, their internal linking strategy is amazing. Currently, as stats show it is one of those websites which are getting the most traffic from search engines!

  12. Don says:

    Good observation. The idea of preventing people from going elsewhere is interesting to me. It's like Google wants to increase its time share of the users.