Hide ‘n seek; web 2.0’s killer app?

22Apr08

Rumours abound that several ex-Google employees are working on a social search service dubbed the mechanical zoo. With the explosion of social content hitting the web in the form of microblogging, photosharing, and mass communication through social networks, one significant challenge has been tracking the conversations taking place on these platforms.

While siloed search engines have sprung up to serve each network – for example Facebook lexicon and Tweetscan – one search to rule them all hasn’t appeared thus far. The main issue behind social search is the necessity of an opt-in choice from its users. In order for people to find content I’ve created or shared, I’ve first got to choose to make it available for indexing by one or more search engines. However, while I’m active across many social sites and networks, there are still boundaries that I want to keep, for example my facebook friends consists only of people I’ve actually met, whereas I have contacts on LinkedIn that I only know through online networking.

The second issue is that social search is second guessing what online consumers want next from search. While this project, and social aggregators such as friendfeed and socialthing, focus on “what” we want to search, human-based search engines such as mahalo are more concerned with the “how”.

The mechanical zoo harbours a lot of promise from a team with a diverse background, but innovations in search have proved to be infrequent, with Google dominating the entire market in recent times. By provoking the internet population to adopt two new seachanges in an area where average-joe behaviour is almost set in stone, human-based and social search may struggle in gaining widespread pick-up, but could prove to be key in unlocking the full potential of the web 2.0 phenomenon.

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