search engines


Let’s take a step back from the America-centric bubble of Google and check out what China’s doing…

Battelle explores what’s going on with search in China. Extreme internet censorship has prohibited Google from becoming the phenomenon that it has become in the states and in so many other countries around the world. But just because China hasn’t become “Googleized” doesn’t mean that they haven’t figured out their own formula.

It’s exceptionally important to understand what China is doing, because “China represents a problem for a democratic businesses–its political and moral cultures are repugnant, but its market is far too rich to ignore.” (Battelle, pg. 204) Battelle notes that in the fall of 2002, the Chinese government filtered Google and other search engines–but this caused a huge backlash among Chinese citizens. Google censors its website for China–definitely making an exception for the growing population. China has continued to be a problem for Google…something they can’t quite conquer.

Censoring their website belittles Google’s very own goal to crawl through websites and obtain all the information relevant to a search. By censoring the information returned to the searcher, Google doesn’t have all of the charisma that it has outside of China. In defense of this, Google released the following statement: “While removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission, providing no information… is more inconsistent with our mission.”

So what does China use if they don’t rely on Google? Baidu. And what has this basically meant for Google? “Hey, we don’t really need you. We have our OWN Top 10 search engine.”

And that they do. Baidu continues to be the predominant go-to for Chinese citizens living in an e-world of censorship. Baidu and Google’s home pages look remarkably similar, as does much of their ideology. In a business overview, Baidu claims the following:

“Our mission is to provide the best way for people to find information. To do this we listen carefully to our users’ needs and wants. Have we collected all the Chinese web pages they want to see? Are the pages current and up to date? Are the search results closely related to their queries? Did we return those search results instantly? To improve user experience, we constantly make improvements to our products and services…Our users definitely notice the many little things that we do differently to ensure a simple and reliable search experience every time.”

And yet, Google continues to push and push…they want to bump Baidu out of the way and resume their #1 position in the world. As Battelle argues, “China is a huge market, and as a soon-to-be public company, Google could not afford to sit on the sidelines as competitors charged into the region.” (pg. 207).

I think we should leave China be. They have figured out a popular search engine for them, and who is Google to try to push itself onto one more country? Admit defeat and move on. Yes, China would be a huge conquest for Google, but the omnipresence of Google can be all but too creepy.

The China Question looms on. It would be absurd for Google not to try to tap into the Chinese market, yet they are definitely playing by China’s rules in doing so. China took the confines of their censorship, and did something about it–they didn’t take a backseat to Google by any means. It will be interesting to see how other countries may respond internally to Google’s bubble, or if they will continue to use Google when Search 3.0 rolls around.

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Remember You’ve Got Mail? That 1998 romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks? Kathleen and Joe, respectively, meet online and let their online relationship flourish as their personal one essentially crashes and burns.

An entire movie based around AOL e-mail, THE vehicle for online communication in the late 1990s. “You’ve Got Mail”…a term I now think of as synonymous with middle school and high school years (trust me, I’ve still got–and use–the screen name to prove my adolescence), at a time when I thought the internet was IT and there was nothing else that could surpass it.

Kathleen: We only know each other – oh, God, you’re not going to believe this…
Joe: Let me guess. From the Internet.
Kathleen: Yes.
Joe: You’ve got mail.
Kathleen: Yes.
Joe: Three very powerful words.

And weren’t those words powerful?! I really mean it. They came to symbolize at least part of my generation at the time. Maybe that’s a strong statement but I know that when we got AOL in our household it felt like a new world unfolding before our very eyes.

But…then what happened? POOF! be gone, AOL was out and Google was in.

Or was it?

We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that John Battelle mentions in The Search that Google pretty much took over AOL’s search in 2002. Search for something on AOL.com and then search for it on Google–you’ll come up with remarkably similar results, thanks to the takeover of AOL. Battelle asserted that “Not only would AOL begin employing Google’s search technology; it would also be using Google’s paid listings.” (pg. 144). But, as Battelle argues, “the AOL deal was a major risk for Google.” (pg. 145)

If you ask me, AOL definitely paved the way for Google. With AOL, we could all start personalizing our login accounts with information that we wanted to explore. Sports? Entertainment? Any of those things could be personalized for specific AOL accounts.

Google took AOL…and then some. I wrote back in June (check it out–it definitely supplements this blog) in my class blog for Digital PR about the sheer power of Google. The idea of “Just Google It” speaks true now more than ever. Here’s a list of some ways I used Google today–without even really realizing it:

  • Gmail
  • G chat
  • Google texted for weather
  • Google texted a phone number
  • Google texted movie times
  • Google maps
  • Gmap pedometer
  • Google News
  • Google Search
  • Google Picasa for uploading pictures
  • Google Notifier
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Homepage
  • Google Reader

And…that’s no exaggeration. I pretty much live and breathe Google–don’t we all? They have managed to perfect the practice of vertical integration and diversifying their portfolio by truly tapping into every field they could think of–something that AOL never managed to fully accomplish.

Today, AOL announced they will be cutting 2,000 jobs; meanwhile, Google employee numbers continue to grow more than ever before. AOL claims that cutting jobs is their way to focus on online advertising rather than being an internet provider. Looks like that “ding ding ding” of my Google Notifier for Mac has officially replaced that void where “You’ve Got Mail” used to be.

Gone are the days of one way memos and letters from companies to customers; ushered in is an era of two way communication and consumer feedback. This has become the crux of the internet revolution.

Scoble and Israel’s Naked Conversations tap into the online phenomenon of blogging for business. According to the authors, businesses can benefit exceptionally from this method of communication.

Scoble and Israel list six pillars of successful blogging:

  1. Publishable: the consumer has the ability and freedom to publish their voice
  2. Conversational/social: a two-way method of creating and sustaining a dialogue
  3. Findable: the information on the blog is indexed in search engines
  4. Viral/Shareable: making things shareworthy; information that is spread through multiple blogs
  5. Syndicatable: RSS friendly
  6. Linkable: the ability to link to other bloggers

SpreadFirefox, or SFX, is a great example of taking a marketing campaign and letting it excel through blogs. Just a few years ago, Mozilla Firefox was a no name company attempting to make their internet browser the new Microsoft Explorer. Through the SpreadFirefox campaign, they were able to use the six pillars of a successful blog to let the internet browser spread organically through cyberspace. The success of SFX is attributed to sustainable word-of-mouth and not to buzz marketing; the difference between the two shows a marked difference between SFX and other followers that unsuccessfully tried to spread their initiatives organically as well. Companies have been made or broken in the past few years, depending on their ability (or inability) to blog.

Microsoft started a blog called Channel 9 to help humanize their big company. Channel 9 fosters a sense of community among Microsoft employees and customers alike, and encourages an ongoing conversation and a collaborative wiki that users can participate in. This discussion forum model has been extremely popular, with all sorts of users participating on the website. The most successful blogs seem to be those that deliver information to consumers, while also allowing customers to contribute to the conversation. This allows for a dynamic exchange and sets a platform for feedback and support. As Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba discuss in Citizen Marketers, it is this exchange between the company and the consumers that generates the power and importance of citizen marketers.

CEO blogging has also flourished in the past few years. Corporate blogging is the pipeline of success between a company and their consumer. Companies from GM to Whole Foods have all actively engaged in this level of blogging by putting their CEOs at the forefront of their image. CEO blogs are the closest that people will get to seeing the face of the company–the importance of corporate blogs shouldn’t go unnoticed.

There are so many aspects to business blogs–whether it’s a CEO blogging about the daily goings on of a company, the spread of new initiatives and ideas through viral blogging, or creating a platform for developers, employees, and consumers to get together, business blogging has proved that communication is a two way street.

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The answer to all unanswered questions: Just Google It. Almost as infectious as Nike’s Just Do It, saying “Just Google It” is the easy out for most queries. Don’t know how to get somewhere? Just Google it! When is next installment of Harry Potter coming out? Just Google it. How to kill your wife??!! You guessed it..Just f*%$^@ Google it.

Google’s surging popularity
Google has truly boomed in popularity over the last few years and is now considered the most popular search engine in the world. Google is a crawler based search engine. Google and other popular engines rely on “robots” to rank pages and link them to searches. This differs from human powered directories, which relies on the website owner to submit information about their site to the search engine. Google gathers information through Googlebot, indexes, and processes information found on the web. This makes the entire experience extremely user friendly and easy.

Survival of the fittest
Most people look to the 10 results of the first page of Google, and rely on those outcomes. As we’ve discussed in class, googling “art” listed the National Gallery of Art as one of the first links just a few years ago—now it’s on the second page. For websites, appearing on the first Google home page has become a competition, almost a survival of the fittest. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a way to ensure that search engines will find a website and list them in the search results. Linking, tagging & bookmarking, inbound links, submitting content to other sites, and mashups are all ways to prevent a static website.

The others just don’t stack up
Other search engines seem to pale in comparison, especially with Google as the forerunner with customizable home pages linked to e-mail, calendars, and pictures. Google is fast, easy to use, and thorough. Search engines seem to be popping up all over the place; however, and they all try emulate Google in one way or another.

The New Wave
Is there something out there that could trump Google? Google, which can be viewed as a traditional search, is always in Beta mode. This means it is constantly changing and improving. Search 2.0 includes the third generation of search engines like Swicki and Wink. These search engines use the power of Google and Yahoo!, but also incorporate “user preferences, collaboration, collective intelligence, a rich user experience”. I think it’s just a matter of time before Google attempts to use these same methods–chances are they are already working on it.

The Google brand
Google has become more than a search engine—it’s become a multi-billion dollar empire. Google Earth and Google’s purchase of YouTube are both examples of Google’s omnipresence on the web. With no sign of slowing down any time soon, Google continues to be the leading example of a search engine. Even with the Search 2.0 and third generation competitors creeping onto the web, Google’s perpetual Beta format will allow it to trump its competition.

With every trend sweeping the internet, Google maximizes its presence by participating in it somehow. Gmail and Gmail Chat have become instant phenomenons, and the Google Blog Search was created as a Technorati alternative. Latching on the Google name to almost anything will give it instant popularity.

So what’s next in the world of Google? Just Google It.