Upstaging Google

This article, entitled “Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas,” floated across my Twitter feed the other night, and it contained a really interesting paragraph:

> […] lately when using Google search I’ve found myself nostalgic for the old days, when Google was true to its own slightly aspy self. Google used to give me a page of the right answers, fast, with no clutter. Now the results seem inspired by the Scientologist principle that what’s true is what’s true for you. And the pages don’t have the clean, sparse feel they used to. Google search results used to look like the output of a Unix utility. Now if I accidentally put the cursor in the wrong place, anything might happen.

It goes on to suggest that there are two places where Google is vulnerable to being upstaged: in search, and in email. Which I find kind of ironic, since those two things form Google’s identity in my mind. Since then, I’ve been doing some research, and there are quite a few sources who proclaim that Google is “losing its touch,” so to speak… the signal is starting to get drowned out by the noise. So, I’ve been thinking. If I were, as the article suggests, to write the search engine I’d want to use, what would that entail?

First, I’d want complete control over my search results. I’m sick and tired of getting search results for w3schools when I’m looking for credible sources of information. I’m also tired of content scrapers who rate higher (or even anywhere close to as high) as the sites from which they are stealing.

Second, no more of this “personalized results” garbage. Half the time, I can’t even get a search page with the same results as another friend, unless our circles are similar enough. Provide me with a way to see what my friends think is cool for a particular query, sure, but I want to see sites that rank highly on their own merits, not because it was suggested for me based on previous activity. And yes, I’m aware that you can turn this feature off, but I still don’t trust that the results I’m seeing haven’t been filtered and customized for me in some way.

Third, cut the ads way, way down. I realize that advertising is a huge chunk of Google’s income… I think that makes it even more irritating. They’re getting paid to replace useful information with stuff that I usually have no interest in seeing or clicking on. And roughly a made-up percentage of the time (but it’s a lot), the top search result and the advertised link are the same anyway. Real estate is precious, and I want to see less of it used up by things that aren’t search results (to Google’s credit, I noticed that they moved the “people and places related to this search” pane out of the main column and off to the side; step in the right direction).

Give me those three things, and I’ll consider switching. That’s it. Kind of scary, huh?

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