A post today from GigaOm about the ways in which Siri can cut into Google’s business made me realize the ways in which much search traffic could actually be considered a commodity today.
Short version of the article: Siri, on the new iPhones, will allow users to ask (with their voice) their iPhones to get them some basic information from WolframApha, Wikipedia, Yelp, and other highly refined information services. Think of most of your smartphone searches during your day: trivia (who won which Oscar, what’s Jeter’s average), definitions or confirmations, and locations. The reflex is to go Google, because it’s a reflex. Many times, you already know where the answer is, but because the google bar is so readily available, even if you know you’re going to click the IMDB, or ESPN, or Wikipedia link, you Google it anyway. In these use cases, Google isn’t providing a real service. In fact, if you’re tired of sponsored links, or want to avoid the crowd (looking up Jeter’s average on the day he hit his 3000th for example), Google could get in the way.
If you build a service that focuses on the 80%, grabs information from major sites, and presents a single result . . . how much do you need a search engine?
More to the point, in the majority of ‘searches’ that you do in a day, are you in fact searching or finding? Is the Google algorithm really active in most of these searches, or is the search engine saving us the time of typing a URL and entering the very precise term in the local ‘search’ box. When Google started out, for most of us it was a way to navigate a world whose geography was unknown. More, it was a way to find out if the web had what we were looking for. Now, when so many of our needs are, in fact, clearly addressed, it’s not a search as it is a lookup.
I’m sure that, as always, I’m late to this party, but this feels like a big shift – for the industry, for search practices, and for design.