Is Social Bookmarking the Successor to Search Engines?

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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.

Social Algorithms

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?

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  • Small Business Marketing

    You raise a very sound point. Humans indeed are need to come to conclusions based on the information. The challenge is presenting the information in a way that they can analyze it. All of the bookmarking site will generate data. We’ll still have to process the data to get relevant info and that is also what the search engines do.


    Many times people are looking at web as much more of a complex thing than it was developed to be. I look at Khoi Vihns work and for any form of theory. Social marketing is becoming impossible based on user amounts.

  • Silicon Valley

    they may be an option to DIRECTORIES

    such as Dmoz or Yahoo or Looksmart – but certainly not Search Engines

  • Gary Lee

    Personally, i don’t think social bookmarking sites are at the quality yet to be trusted for search purposes. We all know how easily they can be gamed and until that is fixed, we can’t fully trust their results.

  • Clocktower Media

    Good points. I Don’t think social bookmarking will replace search engines. Will Stumble Upon come out with local search features, movie times, and a maps feature? Don’t get me wrong…Social bookmarking is, and will be, a very, very, powerfull tool. Marketers that fail to use social bookmarking will be left behind.

  • Wayne Smallman

    This is a topic I covered back in October, entitled: “Social Media to kill Google’s search algorithm?”

    I certainly couldn’t put a finger on a date for when we (or should I say Google?) should start to feel the real effects of such a change, but unless Google et al all manage to get a collective clue about Social Media, their advertising revenues — which are currently entirely driven by their search algorithms — will start to faulter…

  • hcabbos

    Where I see a big failing at least with search in Google is trying to find local content relative to the search phrase. I get results that are far, far from helpful…MSN and Yahoo do a better job. It’s almost like Google fails to grasp you’re performing a narrow, focused search. Perhaps this is an area that social bookmarking could be relevant in.

  • Arun Radhakrishnan

    Indeed, local search is another area where bookmarking can be really helpful. In that sense Social bookmarking may grow into more of a classified + local content combined entity.

  • Mike – Twenty Steps

    I think one of the other things to consider is that new users now have alternatives to search engines whereas older users didn’t have that luxury. As a result the reliance on search will be lessened over time as new alternatives come along.

  • FuzzFind Administrator

    Instead of thinking of social bookmarking as a replacement for search engines, why not treat them as complementing technologies and leverage the strengths of both? We’ve just launched a web search service that does exactly this! ( is a mashup that combines the power of the major search engines and social bookmarking sites to make it easier to find and identify the most relevant information.
    Results are grouped together and sorted according to the search engine rankings plus the popularity of the sites according to the social bookmarking community. Please check it out, we welcome any feedback so that we can improve. Thanks!

  • entrepreneur opportunity

    I don’t think social bookmarking sites will replace search engines. If I can’t remember the URL of the site I’m searching , I will search it by Google or Yahoo!

    Small Business Marketing was right “We’ll still have to process the data to get relevant info and that is also what the search engines do.”

  • entrepreneur opportunity

    also, even my own bookmarks in my browser get so crowded so I have to go Google to look for the site I want to visit.

  • Arun Radhakrishnan

    Yes, the clutter issues always remains. The point here is that the perfect mix of algorithms and human analysis is yet to be found. Even on the social bookmarking sites, the influence exerted by select groups can affect the over all equation.