Daily Archives: July 3, 2006

Google: Search Needs More Work

Douglas Merrill, Google’s vice president of engineering, says online search is not a “solved problem,” and that Google still has “a lot of work to do” to improve its search capabilities, according to an article that appears on the BBC’s website.

Even though Google’s portfolio of online services continues to expand into new areas, Merrill says about 70 percent of the company’s engineering activities remain focused on search. Google’s priorities for search enhancement include improved mobile capabilities, personalized search, automated language translation, and combating the growing scourge of web or comment spam.

As the BBC piece explains, web spam differs from email spam, though the commercial motives of the spammers remain essential the same. Web spammers attempt to exploit the methodologies and algorithms of search engines. They do so by inundating blogs and their attendant comments with unsolicited links to commercial websites selling everything from dubious stocks to illegal prescription drugs.

Of the priorities Google has identified, I think they’ll meet their stiffest challenge in attempting to make headway in mobile search. The reason is not the truncated real estate of mobile devices, such as the RIM Blackberry and various smartphones, but because wireless operators do not exactly want Google to make external data, beyond the confines of their charmless walled gardens, available to paying subscribers. Instead, wireless operators want their punters to have as much trouble as possible getting to the world beyond their content and advertisers. Good luck with mobile search, Google; you’ll need it.

The other areas identified as priorities seem more amenable to Google’s organic engineering efforts and to its acquisition strategy. Google’s approach to acquisitions typically involves finding companies with small but talented engineering teams, compelling products and technology, and a relatively low price tag — with frequently little or no venture-capital investment.