The Google monster came under concerted attack from Francois Bourdoncle, CEO and founder of France-based search engine Exalead in the opening keynote of Search Engine Strategies Paris. The press in particular should be worried about becoming sub-contractors of Google, he said. Whilst at present Google News brings plenty of traffic to sites under the brand names of the press outlets, this would change to Google’s brand in the future. Portals – by which Mr. Bourdoucle is referring to all the major search engines – are the “Walmart of the digital world,” he added.
In a considered talk which revolved around the concept that search is not that effective and there is plenty of room for other search engines despite Google’s dominance, Mr. Bourdoncle explained that an IFOP Omnibus study had shown that 75% of searchers actually have problems finding ‘stuff’. 22% think there are too many results and 45% never bother to look at the second page.
Much of search, he explained, now revolved around Yellow Pages-style search where the user knows that a particular keyword produces the set of results they are looking for – even though apparently it is a free text search – the reality is now very different.
The 30 ‘verticals’ which Google now has cannot be presented in the results. Searcher intent is problematic because searchers don’t always know what they want. This was the reason Exalead is focusing on ‘search by serendipity’ whereby the user has the option to ‘zoom out’ as well as ‘zoom in’ and to discover things they didn’t even know they were looking for.
He also criticised the new sitemaps collaboration announced by Google, Yahoo and MSN at Pubcon in Las Vegas. He said, “The sitemaps specification is not nice and open and it is not nice and closed”. He believes the initiative aims to close the door to new entrants to the market place.
Exalead aims to profit from the Quaero research initiative by bringing new technologies to the search engine which, he revealed, now has a new infrastructure in place which it has taken 8 years to build. “We have moved extremely slowly but now we’re going to move extremely quickly” he stressed. Exalead, which has offices in France, Spain, Italy and Germany is to be re-launched under a new consumer-facing brand soon.
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