Tim O’Reilly posts on the O’Reilly radar that Jakob Nielsen’s concern about search engines “strikes a chord.”
It’s easy to see why folks with paid content businesses would be concerned about giving away too much information via search engines, but it’s really interesting to see the same concerns springing up around free content sites. Google and Yahoo! have done a good job of providing ad revenue back to small content providers with AdSense and Overture, but their model is also a threat to many prevalent kinds of advertising. And of course, the search engines get a huge amount of revenue from advertising on the index pages themselves. I tend to think that the search engines earn their keep, but I’ve got my ear to the ground, and Jakob makes a thoughtful case.
Since Tim authored the Web 2.0 piece I linked from my previous post, I thought I should note that his take on the Nielsen piece was more supportive.
Jakob Nielsen complains that search engines “are sucking out too much of the Web’s value, acting as leeches on companies that create the very source materials the search engines index.” He’s worried that search engines “build their business on other websites’ content,” and that “paid search confiscates too much of a website’s value.”
Reading between the lines, I think Nielsen’s complaint is not about search engines per se, but about “Web 2.0″ and the evolving semantic web. If I’m right, his concern is also applicable to RSS (which he notes that he hasn’t researched yet) and tagging… we’re moving away from “site” and “page” as controlling metaphors, and focusing more on information, less on presentation. Nielsen’s been so focused on web page and site usability that he’s only just beginning to get the message.