Search is the Card Catalogue of the Web

I wrote this piece on April 25, 2007. I’m fishing through some old posts and had to revisit/repot this as I think we’re on the verge of a major shift in attention literacy and finding information on the web.


Search is king.

We have conferences and we have an entire industry built around the idea that “search marketing” is the end all / be all of online marketing.

If you want to reach people and influence their buying habits, you include a large AdWords and keyword budget for search. If you want people to find your website in the vast chaos that are search results, you spend a great deal of time and money on optimizing your site (in some cases at the expense of user interface and aesthetics).

But what about discovery?

Why has “searching” for information outpaced “discovering” information online?

It’s simple… companies and platforms who monetize a user’s ability to find the information they want have found it easier to provide “search engines” rather than “discovery engines.”

This is not just semantics.

Instead, look ahead to the future and how the average web user’s experience has progressed so far. Finding information relevant to your query has forever been a struggle. We’ve made positive steps forward with the search engines, but users still complain about the amount of junk, garbage and irrelevant results they receive in a Google or Yahoo search on a particular topic.

However, as the price of user generated data continues to rise and the price of producing user generated data continues to fall, we see a market shift away from “search” and towards “discovery.”

Soon, we’ll all be paid by Amazon or Google to host our data with them as we do our daily web browsing on our computers, on our cell phones, in our cars and on our digital cameras. Instead of searching for information, you’ll be discovering information based on your user generated output.

Our children will laugh at us for how we sought out information online, just as we raise eyebrows at the thought of using a card catalogue to find a book in a library.

Leave a Reply