Search will never be obsolete.
This week’s class theme, SEO, made me think of a blog post my boss mentioned the other day; the premise was that social media is making search engines obsolete. I googled the idea, and came across a post that may or may not be the one he referenced, but is nevertheless thought-provoking.
This post, Will social media render search engines obsolete? from digitallikeness claims that with so much information available, “the challenge to effective information gathering online is no longer search, it’s filter.” Twitter and other social sites allow us to turn to our friends and acquaintances for information, the way we did before the internet.
While interesting, I’d nevertheless like to call some BS on the post, per our class discussion last week. First, the title is phrased in a question, covering the author’s backside if she can’t prove her rather extreme claim. You can say anything to bring readers in if you give yourself a way out.
Second, isn’t ‘search’ a form of ‘filtering’? Both remove the seeds of relevant information from the chaff of non-relevant information. Even if search engines become obsolete, search and keywords are not. Twitter’s hashtags are essentially keywords– targeted search terms.
Finally, the majority of the article isn’t whether social media has made or will make search engines obsolete but rather how the two can be used together, making the title feel a little misleading.
These three disagreements aside, I do agree with many of the article’s claims, particularly about how Twitter represents a return to real relationships. However, my Twitter network isn’t strong enough at this point that I can tweet a question and expect an answer. My closest offline friends– the ones I trust– are not active Twitter users. Our friends and colleagues don’t always know everything– which is why Google came about in the first place. Plus, I have some questions that just don’t need to be publicly shared.
To prove my point, instead of googling the article, I could have tweeted my boss, “hey, can you send me that article on search engines being obsolete?” This would assume that he was in front of the computer or his phone on Memorial Day instead of hanging out with his family, which is what I sincerely hope he was doing. I may have had to wait hours for him to get online, and even assuming he got back to me in a timely fashion, he may have not even remembered the article’s source.
Instead, I found what I was looking for in about 30 seconds from Google.
Search engines and social media simply complement each other. As the digitallikeness post says, users discover breaking news from Twitter, learn more from a search engine, and then share the search engine findings on Twitter. Search engines and online social networks each provide a service that the other cannot: a personal connection from trusted sources and the ability for real-time monitoring from social media, and speed and reliability from search engines.