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I am not the first person (and will not be the last) to have raised the question as to whether the Diggs, StumbleUpons and Reddits of our times are a precursor to the emerging generations of social book-marking technologies which will eventually replace Search engines as we know them. Below, I am p hrasing some thoughts that led me to this conclusion.
Web is Wide and Growing Wider
Crawlers are fast, feed data for indexing and are adept at continuous trawling of the web. But they are just sets of programs and cannot substitute for human analysis for a piece of Web content. With more and more people going online, how relevant is it really that crawlers alone can index the web completely? Taking the cumulative connectivity across the globe into consideration, is not the discovery of content by humans alone keeping apace.
Human collective analysis of documents also follows several patterns. As elicited in the algorithms used by bookmarking sites like Digg, there are several factors that go into deciding on the “interest” factor of an article (such as the voting activity, the speed of vote, the diversity of votes and the frequency of votes). What these algorithms are doing is to perform metrics on content inherently assessed by individuals. This is perhaps the best proven way to relevancy. Let humans decide it.
It’s just not about how good, but also how bad is the content?
Perhaps in achieving the social grail of relevancy, search engine algorithms are not really designed to factor in on the poor quality of an article. This is one activity that a bookmarking site does best, relegate irrelevant content to obscurity.
Black hat tactics aside, what about relevance?
Content is aplenty, ad dollars are scarce. In the attention economy that drives the net, it’s a fact that to attract eyeballs, top listing on an engine is essential. In course of that perhaps several negative strategies do get applied by the site and content owners. But from the User’s perspective what matters is how relevant the content was to the topic being searched. If certain objectionable tactics were deployed, the article would never see the light of the screen, no matter how relevant the content really is.
If the world were driven by search engines alone, perhaps users would get into the behavior of only getting content that they want. Discovery based results truly come from Bookmarked sites only (Discovery engines do exists, but it is still spun around content that is searched for). Maybe search engines and social bookmarking cannot be compared at all, just like you can’t compare humans to computers.
How do you feel these factors and many more will pan out in the future of Search Technology innovation?