Posted May 4, 2011 8:58 am by with 5 comments

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In what some may see as a matter of semantics, Google has made a shift in how they name positions internally with the word search being replaced by the term knowledge. When I first read this I wanted to dismiss it but on second thought that would be pretty hard to do since Google makes almost all its money from search.

So why this shift in terminology from the search engine giant? It could be that the Larry Page era is truly about taking Google beyond the current confines of being just a search company. They have been trying this for a while with various product introductions and little if any true success especially in the area of social. Maybe the shift in titles is about a sea change in the organization to not think search first?

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch reports

Leadership of Google search, like most other Google products, was previously split between Marissa Mayer as product lead and Udi Manber as engineering lead. Late last year Mayer moved over to run Local. Alan Eustace now runs the group, and Manber reports to him. There’s a single leader of the group, and he reports to Page.

Page, say our sources, has for a long while been thinking of search as much more than Google’s original mission to “organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” His goal is about more than organizing that information, though. It’s also about enhancing people’s understanding and facilitating the creation of knowledge.

Ok, that sounds reasonable. After all, search really is about knowledge acquisition no matter how silly that knowledge is. Helping people truly use and apply the newly acquired knowledge is an interesting take.

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I suspect that Google is seeing what is really happening in the world of the social web and they are working to minimize the impact on their business. Their attempts at social have been so widely criticized and lampooned that they may be seeing that they will never be a real social player. The truth is, they may not need to be.

The idea that search is being supplanted by social is ridiculous. Search is always going to be valuable. Search will be influenced in some part by social signals but the idea of pure search is not going anywhere any time soon.

One of things that is most powerful about search is its almost anti-social nature. Do you really want to ask all of your friends all the time about everything you have questions about? The appearance of anonymity and privacy in search (emphasis on appearance) is one of the most important aspects of it. A person can search without worrying what others might think or know.

Oh and what about those crazy souls that want to advance themselves beyond their existing social circle’s knowledge base? Search is the way for someone to expand beyond where they currently are and beyond the limitations of the existing group of contacts they have. Let’s face it, we give other people way too much credit in the social realm for knowing more than they do. We throw around terms like expert as if it were a common occurrence and in the process practically devalue to term. If anyone is directly equating being social with getting smarter then you are limiting growth potential in a huge way.

It will be interesting to see how this kind of seemingly subtle shift in terminology impacts how Google looks at itself and its world from here on out. Just think about what they are saying by removing their bread and butter term (search) from the title of the person overseeing that operation.

The winds are shifting a bit and it’s a good idea to pay close attention.

  • “The appearance of anonymity and privacy in search (emphasis on appearance) is one of the most important aspects of it.”

    Very true. There are some questions that you don’t wan to turn to your friends for answers. Whether it is because you are embarrassed or not, anonymity makes search incredibly valuable. I don’t think social will replace search, but the line between the two will blur.

  • i dont understand with engine optimization

  • “Their attempts at social have been so widely criticized and lampooned that they may be seeing that they will never be a real social player. The truth is, they may not need to be.”

    Google’s more recent attempts to bring social to search could prove more successful though, and while a lesser engine (or any lesser engine) may not have had the same chances to get it right, I don’t doubt Google could find a way to beat more social based companies like Groupon or Living Social at their own game. I think +1 will prove a valuable tool that finds a way to exist in the social and search atmospheres. Google has always pushed the boundaries of what they are and what they’re capable of, even if it doesn’t yield immediate success.

  • Is Google’s move into ‘social’ anything to do with it seeing it ‘search’ monopoly coming to and end with the increase in DMOZ?
    Interior Designers Cheshire

  • Social networking, is a must have these days. However, many of us are just getting the grasp of its importance. I think that search engines will always be useful to find solutions for our needs. Therefore, I don’t think that search engines will die off, any time, soon.

    One of my biggest quests is to utilize social networking to get “targeted traffic”. So far, I don’t see how one can do this effectively. What about, combining social networking with search engines? Has anybody attempted this?