Why kill Google?

Why kill Google?

Summary: Technology journalists from the mainstream media appear obsessed with locating some magic bullet with which to topple Google from its dominant position in today's Web, and use of violent language seems part and parcel of this obsession. Have Larry and Sergey done something to upset them?

TOPICS: Browser, Google

Linking Open Data project cloudTechnology journalists from the mainstream media appear obsessed with locating some magic bullet with which to topple Google from its dominant position in today's Web, and use of violent language seems part and parcel of this obsession. Have Larry and Sergey done something to upset them? Did they all have Alta Vista stock? Have they been playing too much Halo? Or can they just not handle the fact that a company is doing pretty well in the stock market whilst actually managing to deliver a valuable user experience?

Whatever the reason, 'Google Killers' crop up with depressing regularity, even if (allegedly) you need to put words in the mouths of your commentators to find one.

I spoke with Powerset CTO Barney Pell last night, and one of the topics we explored was his company's billing last year as a 'Google Killer.' More on that conversation in a later post, because for now I want to turn to a related item from overnight; Tim Berners-Lee's latest post to his low-volume blog.

Tim talks about the attention that one of his recent flurry of press interviews has attracted. In this case, he was talking to British broadsheet, The Times, and notes of the article;

"the Times online mis-states that I think 'Google could be superseded'. Sigh. In an otherwise useful discussion largely about what the Semantic Web is and how it will affect people, a misunderstanding which ended up being the title of the blog."

He continues,

"The Semantic Web will not supersede the current Web. They will coexist. The techniques for searching and surfing the different aspects will be different but will connect. Text search engines [like Google] don't have to go out of fashion." (my emphasis)

Noting the speed with which news stories such as that from The Times spread into the blogosphere, Tim comments on the difficulty that he is experiencing in getting the paper to correct its misrepresentation of his words and uses this as a trail into a wider consideration of data re-use online.

This (the ability to combine, recombine, use, reuse, link, link, and link again), he would appear to suggest, is the Semantic Web's (forgive my slip into the language of violence) 'Killer App.'

"The benefit of the Semantic Web is that data may be re-used in ways unexpected by the original publisher. That is the value added. So when a Semantic Web start-up either feeds data to others who reuse it in interesting ways, or itself uses data produced by others, then we start to see the value of each bit increased through the network effect."

Bravo. I couldn't agree more.

I must also admit, though, to being surprised at the extent to which too many 'Semantic Web' companies appear not to get this. Too many of those I speak with are proudly, happily, and expensively building yet another data silo. Semantics may run through their applications, and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) specifications may even get a mention. But the essential primacy of linkable reuse outside the carefully managed boundaries of their application is greeted - at best - with carefully spun hedgeing and - at worst - with outright horror. "Why would some poor misguided user want to do anything outside the Nirvana that my application gives them? Are you mad?"

Tim gives due credit to the great work going on in the Linked Open Data project, and trails the associated workshop (at which I'll be speaking, along with several of my Talis colleagues) at the Web Conference in Beijing next month.

I, for one, want to see more of the commercial Semantic Web startups embracing a lot more of those ideas. Linked Open Data as a university research project is one thing. Linked Open Data at the heart of a business model is something else entirely, and it appears to be something that either the investors or the startups are not yet taking seriously enough. This is the promise of the Semantic Web; Linking. If the Semantic Web only results in yet another generation of silos then what's the point? It's probably easier to build a silo using mySQL and some PHP. The investment in enhancing the linkability, the citeability, of a data resource can only be realised once third parties can link, and can cite.

Rant over, for now. But I really do want to hear from those who get it. And, like Tim;

"So in scanning new Semantic Web news, I'll be looking out for re-use of data. The momentum around Linked Open Data is great and exciting -- let us also make sure we make good use of the data."

Topics: Browser, Google

Paul Miller

About Paul Miller

Paul Miller provides consultancy and analysis services at the interface between the worlds of Cloud Computing and the Semantic Web.

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  • Google's existence prevents MS providing only pro MS search results

    but have NO DOUBT that MS is leveraging their army of monkeys
    to attain that ultimate end. As we all know with Microsoft, they'll stoop to any level to try to attain what THEY want.

    Do you remember the recent "Why do people hate Microsoft" thing, from a few months ago? Because they'll be there behind this sort of nonsense, in the same way that they bought out the PC magazine industry a few years ago.

    Google and FOSS are powerful competition that stand in the way of Microsoft, Penelope, Rupert and Tarquin's dream of brainwashing everybody via their computers, and having endless access to their earnings.

    Why doubt that MS are helping to drive this kind of "Google must be toppled" focus, after all, we know that they have, or intend to, kill absolutely anything else that is not Microsoft.

    Do you remember that in the early days, Microsoft wanted to start their own bank too. That's been buried somewhere .....
    • So this is now the garbage that ZDNet has become?

      the home of the AnythingButMicrosoft movement?

      Wow. Anything for a dollar.
  • Google doing good?

    I do recall their stock dropping 1/3 of its high from last year which drops the value by almost $85 billion, now that doesnt sound like fireworks to me. Also a new report out that googles search may be down once again this month, but we will wait for the final numbers on that. They have great search, but other than that their products are just mediocare peices of software that get glorified and become great by slapping the google trademark on them. Not really my idea of innovation that is so called "google". Plus they are arrogant and have a "do no evil" mentallity. I want to know how google really helps someone do something better besides search??? Any one??
    • "how google really helps someone do something better besides search???"

      How does Vista help someone use a computer?
    • Yeah, that Google Earth is really mediocre...

      I'm sure there must be a hundred other apps just like it. Google maps? it wasn't anywhere near as good as Mapquest when it debuted -- was it? Google Analytics? Why would someone want to take advantage of a free web stats application when those paid ones cost so much more? Google Docs, Google suggest -- why should they even bother? You're so right, just a bunch of mediocre products.
      K B
  • Because Google won't kill itself

    When the Web has stimulated innovation in a software world long stagnated by dominant Microsoft's mediocrity, it is not wise to go down the same path with a different company.

    The Google search app is better than AltaVista and all the others that came before it, but it is not the best it can be. If AltaVista was the librarian bringing back every book that has the words you mentioned, Google is the librarian bringing back all books with all the words you mentioned that are referred to by other books. We would never return to such a library in real life, yet we seem perfectly satisfied with Google Search, which has changed very little in the decade of its existence.

    The Semantic Web (XML, RDF, OWL, SPARQL and GRDDL) offers a way forward. It or something very much like it will take us to the next level, where the librarian actually has some sense of what we mean when we ask for something. If this means toppling Google Search from its lofty position, so be it. It has become an unchanging monolith, and that's never good in software.

    If the supplantation of Google Search takes the rest of the company and its fantastic work with it, that would be a shame, but wouldn't be anyone else's fault.
  • RE: Why kill Google?

    Same reason that people kill Microsoft or Britney Spears. We enjoy seeing giants fall, so we feel better about our own, mediocre existence.
    • Why think Google will be killed?

      Microsoft need killing, not Google.

      Do we all remember what a free market is?
  • RE: Why kill Google?

    Because they add nothing of value. Google is just taking up space on the web and you see their name getting tossed around but you never see any content. They are like a ghost, doesn't provide anything yet it won't go away. Desperately struggling to survive. The stock holders should be furious at Google for allowing the employees to sit around and play with office toys all day without delivering any products or services. Their stock has tanked, a third of their employees are leaving the company. They really have nothing. The question isn't Why kill Google, its Why keep Google?
    Loverock Davidson
    • 9.0 Brilliant

      Only your beloved MS know how to do search properly, but the trouble is too many people are blindly locked in to Google search because of Google's monopoly of the desktop. As soon as you type in anything other than google.com, your operating system crashes.

      At least Microsoft wouldn't behave badly like that. LOL.
      • Obsessed

        Who said anything about Microsoft? I didn't and the article didn't. Sounds like you have are a bit obsessed with them.
        Loverock Davidson
        • In love

          or would you rather just see the web fall apart?
  • RE: Why kill Google?

    In a sense Google is the only company to date to have made a succesful business on top of the open data (ie web pages). The founders were very smart but also lucky - Google floated a business on top of what people would have done anyway and in most cases didn't realise they were giving away

    It's hard at the moment to see what people are doing anyway that a true semantic web business could be built on top of. It's also REALLY hard to link data. Take one very limited domain - clinical trials. It is now recognised that combining the data from individual clinical trials in systematic reviews is highly beneficial to patient care. A clinical trial ontology has been available for years (via Ida Sim). Yet it still takes months to combine the results from a few trials into a valid systematic review. Even in a limited domain such as clinical trials, where well-structured data could easily be produced, and where the benefits of doing so are universally accepted, we are still a long way off any degree of semantic web style data sharing/combination.
  • Journalists want drama

    Journalists want drama. They want stories. They are not killers they just enjoy writing about killing :)
  • Too much power!

    I think that we should all be afraid of companies
    that become too powerful. They say that
    knowledge is power, and power corrupts, and
    absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    I don't care how "good" Google says it is, it is
    accumulating the largest database of knowledge
    about the people on this globe. That makes
    them suspect. Perhaps one of their very kind
    founders will go crazy. Perhaps they will get
    tired, and sell out. Google does provide a good
    counterweight to Microsoft (who became too
    powerful in their monopoly), but need another
    counterweight to keep them in check.

    I had hoped this might be Yahoo, but
    Microsoft's money will talk too loud to be
    resisted. So, we need another competitor to
    develop a useful power base on the Web. Don't
    see any potentials for now.
    • The next power base

      will come from FOSS alignment within Europe.
  • It is just that a lot of web sites like to draw readers with provocative

    headlines. They also might think there is a relationship between Google bashing articles and MS Advertising dollars.
  • Linked data and startups

    I'm a founder of a startup that is taking linked data very seriously. It is a major piece of our business model. We will come out of stealth mode in June/July timeframe.