Social search – an innovation waiting to happen

By December 4, 2007Google, Search

More and more people are saying that search is broken, and social search – i.e. employing the wisdom of the crowds to generate search results is an obvious way to try and fix it.  Behind this link there is a CNN video of the Wikipedia guys talking about how many people share the opinion that search needs fixing and then offering some thoughts into a potential solution.  It’s a good video and if you are into this topic it is well worth the 4mins to watch it.

There is nothing new about this idea though – it is at least as old as del.icio.us, and here is a post from Fred Wilson on the subject from last December.

All of which makes me wonder why we haven’t seen more progress in this area.

For some reason Yahoo! seem to have neglected the opportunity since they acquired del.icio.us, and there hasn’t been much from Google either.  In fact, this post was prompted by one from Stowe Boyd in which he talks about Google’s Experimental Search – which shows in a single stroke that they have an interest in this area, but haven’t made much progress.

There are lots of interesting startups in this space, including Nsyght here in the UK, but search is a difficult market with Google dominating and the top four having a total market share of something like 99.9%.  That is almost a textbook definition of a hard market to break into.  Yet the prize is huge – in fact Google is almost the definition of ‘huge opportunity’ these days, and we should never forget that fortune favours the brave.  Furthermore, Mike Morritz of Sequoia, who knows a thing or two about search having invested in Yahoo! and Google is having another tilt at this market via his recent investment in Mahalo.

Stowe concludes his post by saying that it will be hard for these startups to beat Google.

I would say hard, but not impossible.

  • I’ve always thought the next phase will be an integration of social and algorithmic search.

    As you say though, its hard to convince yourself – let alone an investor – that ots a rational strategy to go against google right now. Although their search is demonstrably worse due to the gaming, it is still a very strong “good enough” for most things.

  • I’ve always thought the next phase will be an integration of social and algorithmic search.

    As you say though, its hard to convince yourself – let alone an investor – that ots a rational strategy to go against google right now. Although their search is demonstrably worse due to the gaming, it is still a very strong “good enough” for most things.

  • Hi Nick,

    Nice post, this article resonated with us as we also think search needs fixing. Rather than focusing on the search algorithm, our approach is to leverage the opinion of your friends and like-minded people to help our users find reliable information. We are currently mid-way through development and launch early next year. Would you like us to add you as one of our early beta testers so that you can get a better idea of how it works?

    Best regards,

    Alex Moore
    Co-founder

  • Hi Nick,

    Nice post, this article resonated with us as we also think search needs fixing. Rather than focusing on the search algorithm, our approach is to leverage the opinion of your friends and like-minded people to help our users find reliable information. We are currently mid-way through development and launch early next year. Would you like us to add you as one of our early beta testers so that you can get a better idea of how it works?

    Best regards,

    Alex Moore
    Co-founder