My enduring faith in the gravitational constant of Google had been shaken…. I can’t help noticing that we’re not the only site to have serious problems with Google search results in the last few months…. Anecdotally, my personal search results have also been noticeably worse lately. As part of Christmas shopping for my wife, I searched for “iPhone 4 case” in Google. I had to give up completely on the first two pages of search results as utterly useless, and searched Amazon instead.
People whose opinions I respect have all been echoing the same sentiment — Google, the once essential tool, is somehow losing its edge. The spammers, scrapers, and SEO’ed-to-the-hilt content farms are winning.
Like any sane person, I’m rooting for Google in this battle, and I’d love nothing more than for Google to tweak a few algorithmic knobs and make this entire blog entry moot. Still, this is the first time since 2000 that I can recall Google search quality ever declining, and it has inspired some rather heretical thoughts in me — are we seeing the first signs that algorithmic search has failed as a strategy?
Obviously, there’s a lot that Google can do to fix this (this post suggests an interesting strategy based on giving searchers somewhat more powerful tools)–and I imagine that the people who gave us about 8 separate products that have achieve ubiquity in less than a decade are up to it–but it’s nonetheless interesting to see the Internet evolving in this way.
The bottom line is that the Internet is a far more open medium than we’re used to dealing with. While I’m certainly all for keeping this trough of power that has been granted to the average individual open, there are unique problems that come with it working in such an open medium (e.g., spam troubles with TV or radio are pretty much nil). I think it’d be a dangerous precedent to make the answer to a problem like this involve a tightening of the medium (more or less the Internet’s version of extra security for less political freedom).
All this poses as an interesting reminder that the Internet is still very much unclaimed territory and we all–from the moguls at Google to the lowlife spammers–are determining the future of it together.