- Index every page on the internet
- Determine what the page is about, based on the content
- Determine the quality of the page based on a lot of criteria – from age to readability to incoming links
- Give users a simple interface to access these indexed pages
- Rank the results based on the relevancy of each page to the query and the various quality factors
- Show people ads while they’re searching to generate revenue from all this
This has proven to be a highly effective method of doing things and has provided an entire paradigm for looking at and using the web.
“You’re putting your faith in a machine to tell you what’s good. And a machine that is also serving advertisements.”
It’s an awesome achievement. But let’s be real for a second: you’re putting your faith in a machine to tell you what’s good. And a machine that is also serving advertisements.
If you had a health worry in the past, you would speak to your friends, go to the doctor etc. You’d go to people that you trust. If someone had given you a library card and said “fuck off to the library and look in the medical section” you’d have looked blankly at them. And yet this is effectively what Google does.
If I search for ‘superset’
Now Twitter has, by contrast, always been a distracting bag of arse. A constant stream of people churning out a mix of bullshit, self-promotion, links to brilliant content and snippets of naught. And to that end, it has proven compelling to some (although not as compelling as its user numbers would suggest – the big majority finding it effectively useless).
“Now Twitter has, by contrast, always been a distracting bag of arse”
It has been announced that they’re bringing in a whole new design. This design divides the stream of content into two. On the one side the usual ‘carpsio has just done a massive bab!’ list of Tweets. On the other side will be videos and pictures that people have Tweeted. A big change there.
Until now, if you found a particularly ace picture of Megan Fox’s arse that you wanted to share with friends you’d use a URL shortener to drop it into your feed with a bit of comment
“Megan Fox with half her knickers up her arse! bit.ly/agREVw #nicearse”
Clicking the link (and don’t say I don’t bring you the very best in information) then takes you off Twitter to wherever. The new interface will instead identify images and videos and deposit them into a separate stream where you can instantly see what things the people you are following are Twittering about.
“In effect, links will be replaced by Tweets“
So far so gimmicky. But I see the germs of an alternative vision of the web to that of Google in this:
- Let people find whatever content is important to them and share it via a simple interface
- Let other people follow each other to find out which content they’ve discovered
- Rank the importance of this content by the number of times it has been Tweeted
- Start to bring this information directly into the Twitter infrastructure
- Build a discovery mechanism so that people can search for information, giving priority to popular information and/or information passed out by
The advantage of this model over Google’s is that – ostensibly – everyone on Twitter is a real person. Rather than relying on an algorithm, people will provide the relevancy.
Look beyond the new interface with it’s typically shallow, Twitteresque decision to pull in video and images directly into the stream. Imagine now that they pull actual text content directly into the stream. That sounds pretty powerful – content recommended.
Despite the differences in approach, Twitter will find much the same problems as Google currently has. People trying to game Google have to build up a link profile – which is done through payments, spam, linkbait and a raft of other techniques (up to and including ‘build a great fucking website!’ in case you’re one of those cynics). People will move to game Twitter in much the same way - ‘retweet this for 50p’. In effect, links will be replaced by Tweets.
Will this work? I suspect not. Twitter is such that you either get it or you don’t. And if you don’t get it, you’ll probably never give it a second glance – which is their biggest strategic problem. And there are plenty of people like me who do get it but decide that it doesn’t add much to their life. By contrast, Google seems simple and logical and – more importantly – has critical mass behind it.
But Twitter are building an alternative. And an interesting one. What do you think…?