At first glance, the web is just fine. Yet from sometimes millions of possibilities, for any particular search term, essentially only 8 or 10 websites - plus perhaps a few additional advertising-driven links - find their way into the elusive slot on the first page of the search results.
Furthermore currently, there is absolutely no guarantee that the top slots returned will answer the question that the searcher has entered into that all-important Search box.
If you buy your way to the front of the waiting line does that make you the best solution to a searcher's problem?
That's why web is broken. But maybe, there is a fix.
Moreover, there may be millions of answers that are better than the first few returned! Yet our searchers will never find them because usually, in our current flawed model:
- Popularity is determined only by links from other websites that are aware the target website exists. Plus ...
- Paid advertising invariably points searchers to whomever pays the most, no matter what justification is given.
That dear reader is why the web, right now, is broken.
The criticism is easy to state, the solution extremely difficult to envisage. Yet for hundreds of millions of website owners, there is bound to be demand for something better than what we have now.
Is the way our current web works a little like a cancer: we can look okay, healthy enough at first glance, but behind the scenes, we can be slowly dying and not know the cause until the need is no longer a necessity. Perhaps the web is already riddled with "web cancer". The topics in this article explore some reasons why.
Without doubt, Google search tools, Bing, Yahoo, etc., appear, at first glance, to provide a variety of great ways to find a subset of answers to our questions. And Google provides many superb free tools; Google Search is currently my most treasured research tool, and I for one, am grateful for tremendous opportunities to participate in the services.
Yet, I may be missing so much simply because I can't find those elusive websites way down in the indexes.
On repeated occasions, when I go further into the search results, I've found valuable nuggets of information, that enrich what I was looking for. Yet studies suggest that most people simply won't go further than the first or second pages. We're impatient. Has our push-button world trained us to want answers now or within seconds?
Plus, millions of website owners - especially small businesses - are not seeing the benefits from listing on the web. Today, only a proportion of the best results ever see the light of day. Hundreds of millions of websites are essentially invisible.
Indeed, we live in the best of times and the worst of times. How so? Putting aside for a moment, many other political, economical, and environmental challenges, for example recently, I learned that the total number of websites has now reached over 1 billion, and is rising faster each second. Update: August 2018: now about 1.9 billion websites.
If the problem is not fixed, eventually, that may mean billions of websites will forever remain hidden in "the (non) wisdom of crowds". Why should a few limited parties determine who gets to access what?
The answer: as always, is change. With such discord unplacated, if I look into the distance, I think I can see "Bitcoin for the web" emerging out of the mist "riding a pale horse". And his name is called: Disrupter.
If You Sell Ammunition To Waring Parties, Can You Appear to Win - For a While?
Do you perceive the problem? With the current search-based web methodology, only a tiny percentage of the web gains - though with higher amounts of money ploughed into advertising in one form of another, users can potentially gain higher positions of influence, even though they may, in reality, offer dubious answers to the questions posed.
The core problem with the current web is that millions of website providers lose out. That is actually a good thing. Why: dissatisfaction is always the precursor to change. You can't have change without sufficient angst to fuel the move to something better. Today however, such change can happen quickly.
Perhaps today's scenario can be likened to a never ending war, except instead of perhaps just two dominant waring parties, we can have hundreds of millions of websites at war with each other - just to gain attention of web users and searchers. As in all wars, to offer advantages, ammunition suppliers enter the fray. However, ammunition suppliers have a tendency to sell arms to both sides, or any and everyone, who offers to pay enough to do the deal.
On the web today, do a few ammunition suppliers essentially serve anyone who wants to pay the most? So the more you pay, the better chance you have of winning the war of gaining attention, to have the chance to say to searchers: "What we offer is the best answer to your request"?
Key point: the problem of course is just because we may pay big dollars or millions of pounds, does not mean, in any way, shape, or form, that our answers are anywhere near the best solution to a searcher's question.
But in our current broken web - the one that will die sooner or later - how much you pay can determine the best answer. Most likely, searchers don't really care either way, so long as they receive an answer that is acceptable to them. Website providers however, are tiring of playing such games. That growing and high level of unrest offers tremendous opportunity to savvy disrupters.
The "problem" has two distinct components:
- Searchers can become frustrated with just 8 - 10 "default" search results, plus perhaps a few more paid search results. As a result, most give up and assume that those on the first page of the search results must be the best answer. Yet more and more people are wising up, realizing that is not necessarily true.
- Providers of most other websites - any of which may contain better answers or solutions - currently, are essentially invisible to millions of searchers seeking answers. This creates a huge amount of energy and desire for change. Such inertia is the driving force that will sooner or later repair our broken web. The inertia will come from the dissatisfaction, and revolution, of millions - or in time, billions - of websites that right now, are not being served well.
Big questions: what happens if, due to the emergence of rapid disrupter technology, millions of websites simply seek to request removal of their website listings in Google, Yahoo, Bing? How likely is that to happen?
We Can't Fix A Problem Using The Same Thinking That Created The Problem In The First Place
Perhaps this subtitle hints at why disrupters are most likely the only solution to the current problem outlined in this article. Of course, Albert Einstein was correct.
However, at the time of writing, there are four prime mover forces that appear to dominate how the web develops and changes:
So for a few moments, let's examine all four more closely:
- Google has much invested in today's web. Their vision of how to value websites is both clearly prescribed and vague at the same time. A provider of many useful tools, that also help maintain their own position. However, make no mistake, there are arguably the most adept at changing quickly, evolving as required.
- Apple while appearing at first glance to be focused on mobile phone and computer hardware, are seeking to build their own walled city. Yet Apple are focusing on services too. Without doubt, when we enter the Apple infrastructure, the quality is excellent. So in terms of changing the web, I consider Apple a kind of wild card. I'm simply unsure how they will move - perhaps that is precisely how they want to be perceived: unpredictable, reticent - until they are ready to strike.
- Facebook is heavily invested in today's idea of the web and focused on building their interpretation of how the web should be. However, they are showing signs of simply replicating what we already have: perhaps moving toward advertising of the more you pay, the more we will advertise what you do. Arguably, their approach does not solve the core problem exposed in the essence of this article.
- Amazon, in order to dominate a position, seem quite happy to lose money for years if necessary, to help drive out competitors. Perhaps their unofficial motto might be something like: he who stands last, wins. Amazon appear to be relentless, determined, and are not afraid of corporate or financial pain providing market share increases. Of the four listed here, perhaps Amazon is the one that makes us most curious. Amazon is a known disrupter. Disrupting, overturning, and breaking industry models or the status quo seem to be their specialty. If we had to pick one from these four, right now, I would edge toward Amazon.
Yet, hold on, add into the mix such fast growing forces as LinkedIn.com. Inroads made indeed! Who knows what can develop in the Linkdein.com space. Currently, linkedin.com tends to support, serve, and interlink businesses, organizations, and the people who work for them.
In time, can LinkedIn.com also work out how to connect organizations to their buyers and users in ways that are supremely better than what is offered currently in standard search?
Newer Disrupters Incoming
In other industries, we have seen how new ideas can take on popularity and even infamy. For example, consider:
- Bitcoin and its assumed mysterious, elusive founder.
- The Edward Snowden revelations.
While DuckDuckGo.com is a curious idea for a search engine, promoted as "The search engine that doesn't track you", essentially, it still suffers from the same problem as Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. So I don't think the DuckDuckGo.com approach is the answer to the disadvantaged hundreds of millions of websites who have no, or little chance, of making the web help them.
Key points: so far, all of the answers focus on website users, not website providers. So in quiet groups, website providers are now asking questions that previously might have been considered heresy, questions like: "Do we really need search engines?", and "Let's look for alternatives". Ripples can become waves, tides, and in time, with the right conditions, transform into a tsunami. Few recognize a tsunami is coming until nature delivers a surprise "Hello" up close and personal.
Such developments have caused, and will continue to cause, massive repercussions. And of course, there are more, "waiting in the wind" for their prime time to emerge.
While Governments Plan, The World Changes Anyway
Most likely, Bitcoin - or something like it: Bitcoin 2 perhaps - may emerge in our lifetimes to essentially replace most existing monetary systems. Why: transactions are incredibly low cost at this point in time, not easily trackable, and outside of the control of governments. The driving force is that arguably, most people do not trust their government, perhaps even more so, in the most democratic nations.
People who feel displaced, ignored, and powerless, always create groundswell movements. Only recently, here in Scotland, almost half of the Scottish population and two major cities: Glasgow and Dundee, voted to leave the UK! While astonishing, these may only be indications of a much larger and wider problem that goes across countries, not just the UK: the belief that some governments no longer serve their people.
So across many industries and cherished ideas, new thinking and new ideas are emerging.
The Fifth Solution
In addition to the main four current huge influences on the web today suggested above, there is at least a fifth option. Right now, I believe, there is a rogue element active: someone, somewhere, one or more people, that is indeed working on how to fix the broken web. You won't hear of these people or organizations unless, or until, they choose to make themselves known.
During development at least, they encrypt everything they do, in ways that are largely unknown, and they hide in plain sight. You won't see them because you may already be looking at them - but just the face they may choose to show.
They may indeed seek to remain anonymous: that is most likely my best guess. Why: when you disrupt established ideas so much, so quickly, your life may be in danger.
In addition to seeking anonymity, the solution will most likely also involve a false eternal breadcrumb trail, as appears to have been achieved by the Bitcoin creator. We may never learn the true identity of who created Bitcoin, and that is a good thing - to maintain the safety of that person or organization.
For today's web: the provider of "The fifth solution" will almost certainly create an answer that is so good it will achieve global popularity in record time, and - somehow - serve both website providers and web users in a much better way. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) mechanism will be free to use for everyone on the planet. What's more, for this to work, most likely, the speed of release must be simply phenomenal.
How to fix a broken web is indeed a mighty big goal, but that's what disrupters do so well don't they? Moreover, the new web that results from such exercises will, I believe, be very different to what we experience today.
Yes, we need a better web, yet I have no idea what will result in the coming years, and like you, dear reader, I wonder, curiously watching, waiting, musing, maybe even participating. We shall see.