PACKET RAT: Search and ye shall be found

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

'It's getting to the point that I need a search engine to keep track of all the search sites,' the Rat railed recently to one of his underlings. 'Everybody's trying to be a Google'or get bought by them.'

Back in February, it seemed like everyone coming into the DEMO conference had a search product to show off. 'Vertical' search, photo search, video search'it seemed the only thing that Web 2.0 players weren't searching for was bellybutton lint.

And yet, it seems to the whiskered one, that none of the search engines, whether they be 'horizontal' beasts like Google, Yahoo and MSN, or 'vertical' search sites attuned to the oddities of the particular buzzword namespace of the moment, ever really find what he's looking for. And that's because all of the wrong answers have been search engine optimized.

The basic rules of search engine optimization are pretty simple, especially on Google: If enough people link to something with a certain word, that must be the definitive source of information on that topic. So, all you have to do to own a keyword is have lots of inbound links. It's one link, one vote on Google'which is why a search for 'failure' yields President Bush's biography as the top result (and Jimmy Carter's as a close second).

It's a phenomenon known as 'Google-bombing.' In the hands of the right person, Google-bombing is a form of self-expression or Internet performance art. But increasingly, it's become a key tool in the hands of a class of slime that has adopted the title of 'search marketers.'

The cyberrodent stumbled into a crowd of these particularly virulent dot-communists back around DEMO-time when he happened upon a conference in New York called 'Search Engine Strategies.' They revealed secrets like how to use RSS feeds, the Wikipedia, social bookmarking sites, trackbacks, and other tools of the 'two-way-Web' to create better Google page ranks for their moneymaking AdSense-saturated sites.

It's these kinds of manipulations that vertical search engines, attuned to the buzzwords of specific industries or somehow filtered by human beings, are supposed to fix.

Part of the cause of this creeping crud on search engines is Google's doing.
Google's context-sensitive AdSense advertising has made sites that feature extremely attractive keywords into big advertising moneymakers. Which is why so many companies are trying to horn in on the vertical search market'they can make a mint on 'pay-per-click' ads of their own, or even off ads provided by bigger search companies'like Yahoo, Ask and Google. Rumor has it that one vertical search company, Eurekester, is being courted by Microsoft Corp.

All of this search pollution has the Rat considering setting up his own search engine within his firewall, based on the Apache Software Foundation's Lucene search engine and Nutch Web spidering software. There's just one catch'he'd need more bandwidth and more storage. Just how much, he's not sure. He's checking Google for an answer.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].


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