Search Engines as Leeches on the Web
I worry 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.
We've known since AltaVista's launch in 1995 that search is one of the Web’s most important services. Users rely on search to find what they want among the teeming masses of pages. Recently, however, people have begun using search engines as answer engines to directly access what they want -- often without truly engaging with the websites that provide (and pay for) the services.
The obscene profitability of search advertising has made many search sites offer a broad variety of non-search services as loss-leaders to drive traffic to their search pages. Among the free offerings are services such as satellite photos and online maps, email, photo hosting, natural language translation, and search of the user's local hard drive.
Free services are obviously nice for users, at least on first analysis. (A second look shows that users will suffer under a lack of diversity if all that's offered are services that are good at driving traffic to the search engines.) Whatever the case for users, free search engine services take a clear toll elsewhere. Search Engines as Leeches on the Web (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox) via businessweek
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