Google SearchWiki, it’s not a waste, not yet a killer.
So Google went and fully launched their new SearchWiki feature this weekend. Mike Arrington, well, he doesn’t love it. Scoble, on the other hand, thinks it’s the cat’s meow. I’m going to take the middle ground on this one.
In short what it does is takes a page from Search.Wikia sort of and allows you to muck around with search results, as long as you are logged in to your google account. You can promote entries to the first page, you can remove entries and most interestingly you can comment on them. The changes you make (promotion/removal) only show up for you – they do not affect the actual search results that other people see. However you do get to see other people’s comments but they bury this functionality with a link to “see all notes for this SearchWiki” at the bottom of the page – I guess it is still experimental enough that they didn’t want to add this information into the general results page, but it pretty much guarantees that only search nerds will see and use this feature.
Nevertheless it is big news simply because it is on Google’s search results. This is a kinda big deal. At this point though, it’s more of a novelty than a useful feature. In many ways more than search.wikia this competes with Delicious. Since only you can see the organizational changes you’ve made promoting and removing entries, it’s quite a bit more like a bookmarking service than a search one. If uptake is good, in some ways it threatens the long tail since the promoted links you do take the place of organic search results, so as you fill this up with static links the actual live links get pushed further and further off the first page.
The other problem with this is that notes on an entry are specific to the search you performed. So, if you search for techcrunch and then see all notes you’ll find that it’s got hundreds of comments. But if you search for techcrunch.com and do the same – it has none. This works the same way for your promoted/removed entries. Which, in some ways, makes it much worse than a delicious since in order to rediscover your notes and links you have to remember the exact query you performed.
In the short term I think this is not a great set of features, somewhat me-too-ey except without the utility of some of the original sites. However, in the longer term, I think there’s real potential here. As this gets used it’s going to generate some serious data for the G to pore over, this could affect things in unseen ways or it could come out in other places as they become more confident in the service. I could see a digg like sidebar for searches with most promoted links off to the side. They could take comments public and promote them more heavily as well as cross search so that when you’re commenting on a techcrunch url, that comment follows that entry around and is not tied to a particular search term. They could tie in stars and shares from Google Reader to urls. There’s mountains of stuff they could do that might value add to the SERPs.
I guess we’ll see how things go, I doubt I’ll be doing anything with it now, but if they actually follow this up and continue to evolve the service, who knows what could happen? What side of the divide do you fall on? Does the G need to cancel this service Lively style (who didn’t see that coming?) or is this the future of search?
(ps I know I recycled this Britney joke, but damn if that wasn’t my favourite title ever)