Web Search, Beyond Google

Over three years ago, Chris Dixon wrote a great post about “What is Strategic for Google.” You should read it, though I’m sure most of you have already. One of his conclusions is that the browser helps control a different input search bar so that people don’t have to type in google dot com and perhaps go somewhere else. That was three years ago, however, and since then, a web user has more robust choices to search within other sites, as I’ve tried to list below. (Google began in 1998.) There are fears intent-based search could be eclipsed by “discovery” mechanisms presented to users on other sites, but what’s interesting is that the following sites have their own interesting sub-intent-based searches:

  • Quora: Started in 2009, opened to public in 2010, finally improved native search, and this is where I conduct about 15-20% of my native searches.
  • Twitter: Started 2006, now the go-to place for real-time search.
  • LinkedIn: Started 2003, best site to search for people in a professional context.
  • Facebook: Started 2004, (will become) the best site to search for people in a personal context.
  • Pinterest: Started 2009, and will become (I believe) one of the largest search properties on the web.
  • Prismatic: Started 2011, and has built a unique engine, way beyond a Google alert’s power, to allow you to follow only the most relevant information on new or novel or developing topics. During the #Newtown horror, I used Prismatic only to follow the news on this specific topic.
  • Evernote: Started 2004, is the best cross-platform notes service and, though I’m not a huge user, I’d imagine the legions who are search within Evernote a ton.
  • Yelp: Started 2004, essentially brought the yellow pages online, or is trying to.
  • Foursquare: Started 2009, began as a mobile check-in service, but nicely flipped model to include search, both on mobile and web. (h/t to @besvinick for pointing this out)
  • Kayak, Hipmunk, Airbnb, and other travel search sites.
  • ** Amazon: Started in 1997, the place people go to buy stuff now. (** Started before Google)

What this does all mean? I don’t know yet, but I woke up thinking about it. Google went public in 2004, and was quite profitable quickly. Most of these companies, aside from LinkedIn, started then or thereafter. Some are very new. Many of them contain information that was either input directly by users and/or organized by users. There is more human activity in determining how this information is organized and discovered, and while users still go to Google.com or use the search bar in browsers powered by Google, I believe the amount of these “sub-searches” within sites like those listed above will only increase, because the information is sorted in a different way from the beginning, and perhaps could be more relevant to users. Are there other sites within which you search often?

Haywire is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2014 Semil Shah.

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”— Epicurus