Yesterday I met Sergey Brin, Megan Smith, Chris Sacca at the Googleplex and had intense, friendly conversation on FON´s strategy to create a unified standard for people to share wifi signal around the world. After this meeting I went on to Technorati´s HQ on 3rd Street in San Francisco and spent 4 hours having an intense conversation about search with David Sifry, CEO and Tantek Celik CTO of Technorati. Now it so happens that Google and Technorati are my two favorite search engines. It was very special to be with the founder of each company on the same day and I have a few comments to make about this.

First I was shocked to find out that there´s practically no contact between Technorati and Google. I guess it´s hard for 5000 people strong Google to meet 30 people strong Technorati and clearly Google is in a complete different league altogether but with both companies being so close to each other I found it remarkable that each should follow a complete separate path to similar objectives, facilitating search.

Secondly after having studying the way Google works vs the way Technorati works my conclusion is that Google has a model that is not as scaleable as Technorati. I know this may sound shocking but here´s why. Google basically copies the internet every two weeks just to find out what changed. This process is slow and incredibly wasteful as “what changed”, may be, and I am guessing, one percent of what´s on the Net. In a way Google is based on the principle that people don´t want to be searched but Google goes ahead and searches them anyway. Technorati instead is based on the principle that anyone who publishes something wants others to know. Thus Technorati needs very few computers as it is only collecting notifications, the famous pings. In other words, while Google combs the haystack to get the needle Technorati simply uses a magnet that attracts the needle, and that magnet is people´s ego. While I use and love both Google and Technorati I see Technorati as the newspaper and Google as the book. Google has more results than Technorati. Many more results than Technorati. Google is thorough. But when I google my last name, Varsavsky, I get 250K results and I drown in thoroughness. Moreover top 20 rarely change while I can hardly make sense of the 249,980 that remain. When I Technorati Varsavsky I get 941 recent and relevant results. As opposed to Google most of these results are very new, some minutes old. What my ideal search tool look like? It would be a Technorati that is blended not with Google but with Google news. If Technorati was able to get pings from all the relevant news organizations in the world plus blogs they would be on to something very powerful and not just for ego victims as myself but for anyone who cares deeply about any specific topic. Going back to FON I would say Technorati is more fonera than Google. Technorati is built by people contributing content to facilitate the search. Moreover while I empathize with Google´s attempt to find everything that´s on the net I wonder if people who write things on the net who don´t want to be searched are aware of the fact that they will be searched. Or in other words I wonder how many criminals can get social security numbers for example just by googling names and social security number in the same string. At FON we wanted to sniff all the wifi networks in a city and publish those open for foneros to enjoy but then somebody pointed out that a large part of those who leave their wifi networks open do so because they don´t know how to put a password to their routers and that we should only publish the points that we KNOW that people want to share. Should this principle be applied to search?

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Niall Kennedy on December 22, 2005  · 

Thank you for the kind words! Regarding your last point on open WiFi, Microsoft has already bought data on WiFi points by geolocation here in the U.S. and uses that data to tell a user of their mapping service where they are located.

On a more comical note, there used to be an open WiFi node in San Francisco’s Cole Valley neighborhood called “105 Carl, bring beer.” The node is now WEP-enabled and the node is now just named “105 Carl.” I guess nobody brought beer.

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Ozh on December 27, 2005  · 

“google copies the internet every 2 weeks” ??
Whenever I update any of my websites, changes are shown in Google’s search results less than 48 hours later, and a few hours later when changes occured on XML feed enabled blogs.

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Paul Jardine on December 28, 2005  · 

You’re right when you say that Google drowns you in thoroughness. This is becoming the disease of the web. Something like 18,000 blogs are created every day (or was it minute?), and our ability to find the needles in the haystack is being eroded.
My view on this is that community will determine what is relevant and what is not, but that Technorati, although a community, does not provide the level of intimacy that will eventually be required. I’m working on it…

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Karl-Friedrich Lenz on December 31, 2005  · 

I think that Google should indeed only include pages in their index the authors want expressly included (opt-in model).

I also happen to think that current copyright already requires this and the opt-out model Google is now running with is quite illegal, as might well be confirmed in one of the copyright lawsuits running against Google right now.

It was interesting to learn from your post that it might actually make sense from a pure search business point of view (e.g. completely ignoring copyright requirements) as well to go with opt-in.

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Brian Gilley on January 15, 2006  · 

Interesting read on search, wi-fi, and especially the differences currently between Google and Technorati.

I agree with several of your points that Google’s search has become very saturated. If you are a common, everyday user without the use of advanced operators to use within your searches, then you could easily lose time, focus, and perhaps any relevance when searching for your particular query. Technorati is way more focused, although they face a much more prevalent problem of spam and the new “splogs,” which I hope they are working diligently to stop as they push forward.

I would like to point out though for your comments on legalities as well as another comment about a person’s rights as it pertains to their site (or snippets thereof) being included in Google’s search results.

It’s been a long known fact that if you didn’t want your site, pages, or any section of your site crawled, then you should include that in your robots.txt file. We use it regularly with certain sites. Therefore, I do not think that a site owner’s rights to not be included should be enforced by any legal body. It seems that common sense and the “realm” of the Internet and search engines has always been that if you build a site, it will eventually get crawled, at least pieces of it. I think that no violation has occurred in this sense because search engines have always given the “users” ample ways of opting out.

On a side note, I do love Technorati for their timliness of information, accuracy versus Google, and the speed of their results overall.

Also, I’m jealous that you got to meet with two of perhaps the best Internet companies on the planet. Must’ve been some “intense” conversations as you put it. But I’m sure well worth it if it leads you to greener pastures 🙂

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