. . . Monday September 12, 2005

Interview with John Battelle, The Search

John Battelle on Search, Five years from now:

It’s built into everything you use, search is simply presumed to be everywhere and always on.

The following is my brief interview with John Battelle, author of The Search which has been released to solid reviews.

Pell: Even you, the expert on all things search, probably find it difficult to keep track of all of the new features and services being rolled out by the top search engines. Do you think that over the next couple of years, the key challenge for search companies will ultimately come down to information design?

Battelle: I in no way can keep up, it’s simply impossible. Yes, UI/UE is critical, and so is finding things that break through and take hold in important ways. It’s hard to tell what is going to stick, but I go with my gut – I try to look at everything I can. I knew search history, for example, was going to be really important, but still to this day I can’t show you really strong working examples of why. However, every single engine now has it, and I am sure it will be a crucial part of the next step in search. And how will history become meaningful? UI/UE/Design….

The introduction of sponsored ad words changed everything in the start-up world. Suddenly everyone had a business model. But all of these models are built on the backs of Google, Yahoo and a few other big players. Is there still room for another major player to emerge? From where?

No doubt. Microsoft could come in and pretty much underprice everything if they wanted to (it’s a cash game), and then let the market bring them up. It’s been done before, that is how Overture got its start against the whole CPM basis of the late 90s web. Also, I know that there are second generation models about to emerge based on tagging and transparent market information that might spring from outside the main players. Will they work? Anyone’s guess….

It’s five years from now. You are about to search for something. Do you go to Google, Yahoo or some other giant, or do you go to a vertical search brand that you trust when it comes to that specific query?

None of the above. It’s built into everything you use, search is simply presumed to be everywhere and always on. The key is doing the back end and making the money.

A lot of people were attracted to Google because they did one thing (and their design screamed that fact to the world). Now they are gradually doing a lot more. What’s your take? Is this simply inevitable horizontal growth or a mistake that leaves them vulnerable?

Possibly. They don’t really have a choice. Plain old search alone is becoming a commodity (see above) – the key is helping folks make sense of the world, which is now Google’s mission. That means much more sophisticated search, on the one hand, but it also means knowing more about who is doing the searching, and what is out there that perhaps cannot be indexed in traditional ways (ie, not crawled like a text document – ie, video, or you kid’s wherabouts…)

Concentration is important!