The Day Search Engines Died!

by Paul Wilson


Recently I was asked by a friend: “What do you think is the greatest way to become well known on the web?” I thought this was a post worthy question, and something I have recently given great thought to.

Obviously, using SEO with a lot of my websites I would advise becoming number one in Google. However, this really isn’t the right answer to the question; nor, is it a good answer. It isn’t difficult to rank high in the search engines, but just because you are able to rank doesn’t mean people will remember you. I personally can think of several of my own sites that rank number one but are far from rememable!

To me the real answer to this question is—originality and foresight. It sounds like an easy answer, but it seems a lot of people struggle coming to a similar conclusion. The Internet is littered with unoriginal spammy sales pages that will do anything to get your credit card and email, in order to bother you for eternity (check out: to see a great parody on this aspect of the web). This being the case, the web is starving for originality/foresight.

However, it’s easy enough to say, “be original and have foresight,” but hard to do. One creative way to do this is to ponder on an unrealistic problem in any given industry.

So, building off this idea I asked myself the improbable question: “What would I do if all search engines ceased to function?” As one of my colleagues termed it, “A search engine holocaust.”

Obviously, having Internet without search seems ludicrous. Yet, coming up with a solution to this problem could make you the next Marc Andreessen or Evan Williams.

So, here are my top ideas to answers this crazy question. Keep in mind I am answering an insane question, so my answers might be a bit out there, but that’s how great ideas come together.

Connect The Web. The main concern of an Internet without search engines is finding what you are looking for. One way to overcome this issue would be to harness the web’s vast power of crowd sourcing. You could require all sites to incorporate code that allowed users to ask questions to the rest of the web. Each time a user asks a question on a website the rest of the web would be pinged for an answer. Obviously, this would be crazy if every question asked pinged every website. Instead, websites could filter to only show questions in their niche of expertise. Websites can build up credibility scores (gained by users giving feedback), which gives their answers more weight. Yep, it sounds like another search engine, but here’s the difference, there is no central website (like Google) to control what you see. You as the user also have the ability to punish websites that are spammy and irrelevant to your search!

Create A Mini Internet. With search dead the web would fragment (at least in my story), and people would turn to their communities (social networks) for answers. I can easily see the web becoming more a place divided into categories you belong to. If you created a community of websites owners and set quality standards on their websites, people would turn to your community to fulfill their need for quality websites.

Build an Email Home. What people do not realize is that email truly is your home on the web. If you think about it, it really makes sense. A website as a home is like putting your living room furniture out on your lawn in the real world. Anyone who wants to look can just go to your web address and go through every room/page without your permission. Whereas, email is your secret place on the web, and like your real home what goes on inside is your own business. An email address, however, is different from the real world in the fact that you share a domain with millions of others of people. It’s like living in one very large apartment complex. Why not harness this fact? Email services could create a robust and lively community by creating forums, social networks, blogs, and wikis, that all operate straight out of your email. Seriously, how often do you check your email, versus any other of these web mediums? If you’re like me I keep my email open 24/7. Honestly, I do not know why this hasn’t been done sooner. Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail are so close to the answer but have yet to deploy on it.

Cell Phone Tagging. I have to hand it to Twitter. They built a mediocre software on a stellar idea, it truly is a testimony of first mover advantage. Cell phone browsing is storming the web like no other technology. However, no matter how great you think Twitter is it has one major flaw–it is too general. Your communication is tied to a person instead of an idea or niche. If you created a platform like twitter but allowed for people to follow categories instead of people, search wouldn’t be as important. Imagine hundreds of thousands of people cellularly collaborating on any specific area. Anything and everything you wanted to find dealing with that niche would be at the touch of your phone’s touch pad.

Browser Mapping. This idea might not be as accepted since it requires you to share your browser history. Yet, search would be less needed if when visiting a webpage you could see statistics in your browser of other websites people viewed after visiting the particularly website you were on (sort of like Amazon’s “other readers also bought” idea) . It would also be handy if the browser allowed you to interact with current people on the site and gave you the ability to read notes left behind from past viewers. I was hoping when I heard of flock “the Social Web Browser,” that it would actually be a browser that socialized. Instead you will find that flock is a browswer that kept tabs on your social life on the web.

So, there you have it. Crazy solutions to an even more crazy question. These ideas are obviously not without flaws and truthfully, search is our best source of finding things on the web today. Yet, it is coming up with ideas like these (as bizarre as they are) that sets you apart from everyone else. Instead of being a follower you become an innovator, and if you ask most Internet super stars innovation is one of the most valuable aspects an individual can possess on their path to success. Cheers! ~Paul W.

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