When Larry Page took over the steering wheel at Google, the company made a u-turn on the “do not do evil” road which it had followed for most of its existence. Now, Google concentrates on generating revenue, and pleasing investors, and if that means shoving certain services down a user’s throat, so be it.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Google plans to roll out another change to its search engine in the coming months that is going to affect a lot of users, webmasters and Internet businesses. Semantic search aims to provide search engine users with direct answers to their questions. And while that does not sound too bad immediately, it is likely having a negative effect on many websites and services that previously received the traffic. Those sites will still receive a chunk of the traffic for particular queries, but a Google answer box on top of the results could make that traffic drop like a stone in water.
When you search Google for a phrase like “when was George Washington’s birthday”, you end up with a series of sites that answer that question, with Wikipedia prominently sitting at the top of the results. Google Semantic Search would put a box on top of that stating that the birthday was on Monday, February 11 February 22, 1732. It could look similar to how DuckDuckGo is providing these results.
Google’s intention may however not be that altruistic, as it is reported by the Journal that it could provide the company with more ways to serve up advertisement. It is not clear right now how the box will look like, and how advertisements will be baked into it. One possibility would be to use in-text advertisement to lead users to Google stores. A search for Michael Jackson’s Thriller could for instance lead right away to Google Music where the album can be purchased in digital form. The same is true for book and other media searches.
Some users, maybe even the majority of users, are certainly going to like the change, as it is making things simpler for them. For me, it is another step into a web that is turning from a diverse landscape into a brand-orientated place.
What’s your take on the story? Good move, or bad, and why? Oh, and for those who did not catch the all your base are belong to use references, check it out at Wikipedia.