Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Google to Blogs: Get Lost

Well, maybe not. At least not yet. But the signs are unmistakable that the current predominance that blogs have in Google (and other search engines) results, is threatened with imminent demotion, if not actually coming to an end.

There is a pretty hot thread at Slashdot wherein many posters claim that they are tired of having results from blogs drowning out the primary sources that searchers are looking for. I never realized that so many tech-heads so dislike the blogosphere, but clearly, many of them do. This story has its origins in a statement made by Google CEO Eric Schmidt that 'Soon the company will also offer a service for searching Web logs, known as "blogs."' And logically, if Google offers a "service" that indexes blogs, the main Google index will not.

They did the same thing with Usenet, you may remember, and after a bit of an argument things are now fine with Usenet being separately indexed, but I wonder if these two things are similar at all. For one thing, how will Google, or anyone else, tell blogs from "primary sources?" Who is going to tell Andrew Sullivan or Stephen den Beste that they are not "primary sources?" What about James Lileks? Somehow I don't think that Eric Schmidt has really thought this thing out. How will he tell the difference, when the software is the same, the content is of the same type, and therefore the difference between the two sources is simply and purely subjective. Other than the economics, how is Daily Pundit different from the New York Times? Well, the Times keeps the letters page separate from the news and editorial pages, and Bill Quick works alone while the Quacks at the Times have an almost unlimited budget.

And how will this divorce be delineated? Let's look at the news aggregators, like InstaPundit and Drudge Report. Are they blogs or not? Who decides? I know to go there, but what about the newbies? How will they find blog content if it is in a separate index? How will they ever know to look there? (They have never discovered Usenet. Who searches Deja News anyway?) I guess that they will have to be satisfied with, what else? Google News!

If this comes to pass, it will be another instance of the Establishment keeping the people down, and I say that as a reactionary conservative, not some looney leftie. The great accomplishment of the Blogosphere is the freedom of writers to publish without being edited by a multinational media conglomerate, or, even worse, Howell Raines. In this marketplace of ideas, all words start out as equal. The readers, and the readers alone, decide what they will read. No editor (for better or worse) tells me what the write about, or what slant to put on the story. But now Google wants to tell the World that the body of work produced by, say, the Warbloggers, will not be mingled with the "approved" content from the editorial pages of the Times and the Guardian? Is Schmidt, a leftie kid who was a pure nobody a few short years ago, now empowered to hide our opinions behind a Google Tab? We shall see, boys and girls, but I don't think that this will come to pass, or the Blogosphere will go down without a fight. Who was it who said: "never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel?". I think that aphorism applies to us.