Of Content and Curation: Web Search—The Thrill Is GoneBy Greenfield/Belser
January 29, 2015
Today, Google and Bing are recognized as the preeminent overlords of finding things on the web. Yes, there are some individuals who are still Yahoo’ing it, and since Jeeves was fired from Ask.com, the web seems a bit less cool. In either case, finding the information you want has never been about the search engine result pages (SERPs for you technophiles). It’s about the search index, which often feeds the results of the aforementioned.
In layman’s terms, a search index is a collection of data that contains key fields that are relevant to the searcher. The purpose? Making search easy, quick, intuitive and “accurate.”
Indexes are made by assessing numerous user-generated and bot-fetched content (sitemaps, enter stage-left), usually against a set of rules that defines how it will appear on SERPs given a user query. An index isn’t always a massive, all-purpose blob of information. While it’s rather dated, http://www.thesearchenginelist.com/ gives a conceptual snapshot of how portals and search engines can sometimes be specialized.
Making good on the BuzzFeed-esque article title, search indexes are often licensed out to other portals. It’s almost a way of “black labeling” index content. In 2010, Yahoo gave up its market position in search (after acquiring almost every startup during the late 90’s) in favor of an alliance with Microsoft (MSN, cough cough). You may have learned about their love child, Bing. On the other side of the net, AOL (cue the modem dial tone) is now “enhanced” by Google despite AOL’s effort in being the front man for the DMOZ project.
In essence, the average web search occurs against one of two search indexes. The industry of search that was once a diverse and booming frontier in the latter portion of the 90’s is now more of a megacorp tug-of-war where both are trying to win searchers and commoditize relevance. Perhaps, the thrill of search is in fact gone.