May 23, 2007

Google Could "Pull a Netscape" on Technorati

The hottest topic of discussion on the blogosphere today is Technorati's new revamp. The blog search engine pioneer is branching out and trying to capture what the company calls "the live Web", capturing video, photos, blogs and hot topics. And much as Google's recently announced Hot Trends feature highlights rising topics for discussion, Technorati has long tracked the "Top Tags" or "Top Searches" from their front page, and today's launch takes their story up a notch.

But amid all the positive press, from TechCrunch, Mashable, Robert Scoble and others, is a minority current saying that Technorati, in this age of Google, just might not be relevant any more. In his usual blunt fashion, Steve Rubel says simply, "Blog Search is Dead and Google Killed It".

There is no secret that Google is the search leader. Statistics on my personal blog and elsewhere show that Google and all its derivatives drive 85-90% of search traffic, dwarfing the also-rans, including Yahoo!, MSN, and the rest. Now, it could be argued that Google is to search what Microsoft was to the Operating System.

When Microsoft embedded Internet Explorer into the Windows operating system, it spelled the deathknell for Netscape Navigator. Customers felt the free browser that came standard was "good enough", and the act of downloading or paying for Netscape was too much to take on. Though Microsoft was charged with monopolist practices and nearly broken to pieces, they won and Netscape died.

There's a strong chance Google could be doing the same thing to Web upstarts by adding new search functionality. As Rubel writes, Google's integration of blog search negates the need for dedicated, vertical search like Technorati, IceRocket or Feedster. The Google Blog Search is "good enough" for 90% of the users, leaving only us technogeeks who demand the upper crust of technology innovation. And while Google is expected to "Do No Evil", their adding of free Web-based e-mail significantly challenged Yahoo! and others, their integrated RSS feed reader has removed the need for downloadable feed readers, and the company continues to expand.

Technorati could very much become the next Netscape, evaporated by a big monolith with an unparalleled brand and scads of cash in the bank. So while CEO Dave Sifry asks you to Come check out the refreshed, it probably isn't going to have a radical change in the company's fortunes for the long term. I love Technorati's widgets. Every single blog post I have lets you see "blog reactions" in Technorati, and the Technorati Authority tag separates the leading blogs from the newbies and also-rans. But Google's blog search functionality is "Good Enough" for me in most cases, and will be for the majority of Web users. I can root for Technorati all day long, but the threat from Google to pound them the way Microsoft did Netscape is very real.