This was written in September 2000.

Search Engines

In its September 2000 issue, the Linux Journal has an article by Doc Searls on search engines. His words:

It seems like every time I find a search engine that does The Job, somebody buys it and it goes to hell. Or it goes to hell and somebody buys it.

Doc goes on to rebuke most major search engines - Infoseek, HotBot, AltaVista, Go, DirectHit, making nice observations about marketing, exposure, targeting, and portals. Those concepts are not necessarily maleficent, but they have led the mentioned Search Engines totally astray. Of course it all fits in a bigger picture: companies need to make money, and the business models on the Internet are still exceptionally inadequate, as they are mostly about portals and banners. I appreciate the goal of making money, as I highly value the services offered by a good search engine. Someone has to pay for that, and I am willing to contribute if possible. But what probably happened is that some of the big search engines wanted to empty really deep pockets. For this sake, both investors and the parties themselves were lead to believe that it is possible to embellish a web-site to the point where it becomes a kind of virtual Info Disney Land that web surfers will love to cruise forever. The point is, they don't, because the Info Disney Land inevitably turns out to be a horrifically conconcted monstrosity. The way I contribute now is by using Google exclusively - I will give FAST a shot every now and then as well.

All major search engines that I know of, except for Google and now FAST, try to stuff me with cookies and pop-up windows, work up a lot of content huffing and portal puffing, and one even automatically transfers me to a page I don't want to visit. It's Lycos that pulls that last one on me, apparently they think I should only visit their incredibly nice content-enhanced fancy, funky, and frilly Dutch Portal , because someone with a '.nl' suffix has no business searching stuff in other languages or countries. Lycos is really ready and warmed up for the Internet age.

Agents, wizards, and assistants I

Lycos is not just a search engine, it is your personal guide to Internet. I bet their target is to eventually deploy a fantastically intelligent agent, wizard, assistant, or whatever, at my home computer, that will know and answer my every need. It will surely be capable of intelligently learning my preferences, and when it finds some other person with a similar profile it will inform me of the marvelous opportunity to meet someone just like me! Maybe our assistants will exchange preferences, and I might even get to know a piece of music in one of the styles that I like! This is one of the more usual themes sung when industry leaders are asked to spare a thought on how software will change our lives. It's less than dumb.

Agents, wizards, and assistants II

A related theme is found in the design of certain electronic gadgets that people are supposed to wear in some strange future, in a so called intelligent house. The gadget will again know my preferences, and wandering through the house (my own or somebody else's), music, lighting, and temperature will adjust itself to my preferences. This is really suffocating and nauseating at the same time, don't these people (industry leaders, brainstormers, futurologists) understand that such a persistently friendly house would drive me crazy? What's wrong with suprises, new horizons, and the pleasure of finding out?

I am just recording this here, so that either future generations will laugh about these silly ideas, or that the few sane people then remaining will know that I tried to fight them (the rest can laugh anyway). I propose to assemble these aberrations under the nomer of the

Elevator Individuation Trap.

The connection may seem dim. However, elevator music aims to be unobtrusive to as many people as possible, whereas this personal gadget thingy is meant to be pleasantissimo to the one and only centre of the Universe, namely I, you, or anyone. The result is the same: all excitement gone. And there is little point in predicting how I like to be suprised or excited. I mean, we are confronted with ourselves often enough, are we not? Please no more?

Content and portals

Another nuisance is that Internet providers and service providers on the Internet seem to suffer from the illusion that they have to have content in a portal so that customers or visitors will start to hang out there. They better wake up, because their efforts are usually pitiable, and breach the rule that dedicated efforts by really dedicated parties (dedicated for other reasons than luring people to hang out, for example because they like the subject themselves) are more interesting and invariably qualitatively superior. Dedicated parties such as pointed to in the destinations section.