Has the web become a big Wordpress linkfarm driven by social networking?
I loved it the other day when Prince said “the internet’s completely over”. Like that statement, and the headline above, much of what I’m about to say will be hyperbole, opinion, and oversimplification. Which is ironic, because that’s kind of what the web has become as a result of some of what I’ll be talking about. Do you remember when there were more than three search engines? When grandma didn’t have a blog, and your mom didn’t ask you “how do I set up a Facebook?” Or when small business owners who can barely use e-mail didn’t ask their web developer questions like “we’ll be be implementing SEO and social media tools when you build my website, right?” I would argue that Google’s domination of search and the ease of installation of WordPress blogs have done nearly irreversible damage to the web. How? Back when there were a half dozen or so competing search engines – Lycos, Hotbot, Excite, MSN, Yahoo, Altavista, etc. -they would have ups and downs and shortcomings, but competition would drive their evolution. And perhaps more importantly, an interesting cycle would drive part of that evolution: a popular search engine would attract SEO experts, which would slowly erode the engine’s organic results, which would cause a migration to a new search engine, which would inspire the top dog to clean up their index, or fail. Then Google came along. They did so many things so well in the beginning that it was almost magical. And slowly their competitors faded into oblivion, so that now, according to stats like this, Google has about 70% of the market, Yahoo 15%, and Bing 9%. So why is that bad? Although a disruptive technology could always come along, for now, there’s little incentive for developers and VC’s to say “hey, let’s start a search engine“. And with Google as basically the only portal to the web for most people, their search results have become so “spammed out” and infested with WordPress-driven linkfarms in general results, and Yelp-like listings in local results, that random searches can often be utterly useless. And Google can care less about that for awhile, because where will you go? It’s sort of like if you were frustrated with your cable TV service. What are you gonna do, call the other cable company? Add to this mix an attempt to cash in on the myth of the wisdom of the crowd, and you get a real mess. Rather quickly, any site that is based on natural networks of user trust will fall apart. Think of something like Yelp. Who bothers to offer up reviews on sites like Yelp? Mostly either opinionated egoists, or angry people. Real experts are too busy doing whatever they do as experts. Which is an idea summed up nicely in this piece by Amber Naslund, which talks about “confusing ego with influence”. And when Facebook becomes the second most visited site on the web, you get an interesting new phase. Google vs Facebook. Google keeps going after Facebook, while Facebook enters the search market. I can’t wait ’til all my search results are based on “Like” buttons that were clicked in e-mail spam campaigns. How about you? Oh I don’t need to ask. Facebook’s Edgerank will keep me informed of what you’re thinking and doing if I need to know. Which is another piece of this e-pocalypse. We already know that Google is making us stupid, but once we’re stupid, is it really such a good idea to make Facebook the very first thing we do each day?