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Sunday, September 29, 2002


I owe my discovery of this fact to Brad de Long (who describes himself on-site as 'an optimistic "computer revolution" guru') .

Google expands from sifting the past ("what's on the existing world wide web?") to sifting the present ("what's the news?"). Given what has happened to Google's competitors in the search-engine business, I would be terrified if I were running an online news service. From one perspective, I am surprised that Google does so well--it is, after all, in part at least vulnerable to problems of celebrity: things that are well-known for nothing but their well-knownness. I am also surprised that it lacks direct copiers.
Will Google be as successful in news-aggregation as it has been in web search? I have no clue, and I haven't heard anybody else have a clue either.

Source: Semi-Daily Journal LINK
Google News: LINK

On the point about the Google impact on other on-line news services, Steve Johnson in his book Emergence argues that the US network news system underwent an irreversible structural shift following a decision by CNN to allow local news affiliates full access to the CNN news feed. The result initially was imperceptible, but the profound long term consequences soon became apparent. Johnson reckons that Americans became really aware of what was happening when Jim Wooten's question to then presidential candidate Bill Clinton about his relations with Gennifer Flowers unexpectedly got covered in prime TV news. This Google decision - for somewhat similar reasons - is likely to have deeply significant - if as yet unclear - long-term consequences. As the blurb says: ' Google News is highly unusual in that it offers a news service compiled solely by computer algorithms without human intervention'. Now if they find a way to incorporate collaborative filtering and a slashdot type rating system...

On the point about direct Google copiers, possibly another book, Albert-László Barabási's Linked may offer a little insight. Power law structures in the Internet. If a same-service competitor did emerge (in fact some do exist), it would be very unlikely to be strikingly successful. A niche market, like Mackintosh's OS rivalry of Windows is always possible, some of us of course do enjoy being different. But in general, in the internet more breeds more. Of course when someone comes up with something decidedly better.....

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