Google Blindness: Dawn of the Post-Search Era

Sure I am not a google critic. Even not interested in reading the long list of google criticisms published here and there. Actually I am a google fan and strongly believe that the high quality and accurate search is the undeniable outcome of google monopoly. So, to be honest, I am advocator of the search monopoly, no matter it’s governed by google or any other company.

But also as a person in love with McLuhan‘s Tetrad-of-Media-Effects, I have always the following question in mind:

What does the technology flip into when pushed to extremes?

The above question is called reversal question in McLuhan’s literature.

Let’s take a look at the trend of search industry since two decades ago:

Just after the popularization of digital technology, we were so happy with the new tools and equipment for the content generation and content storage.

Soon we became overwhelmed with digital content. Most of this content could be called digital rubbish. Reducing the content production and maintenance costs, always makes it possible to create and publish lower quality content.

So we looked for a technology to look for diamonds lost in the mud. Here the search industry emerged. One after the other, search engines announced their presence. Taking a look at the search engine history, seems that google was the 21 in the market.

Although it was not clear that we will face with the close-to-the-monopoly-state of today, but as any industry moves toward consolidation in the maturity stage, it was reasonable to expect merger and acquisitions of the companies and disappearance of the weaker ones.

Search engines became obsolete one after the other and we were happy that just one king will reign the territory. It will not be necessary to optimize your content for various search engines. Also, it will be easier to find similar contents and follow your competitors.

The next development was customized-search-results. Something which makes the life easier and happier for most of us. Now, google tries to deliver the best content based on our search histories and individual preferences.

Just a few years ago, I was forced to look at the fourth and fifth page in search results to find my target content. Nowadays I rarely go to the second page.

Sure part of this belongs to the better content evaluation algorithm, but also we should not forget the contribution of customized search results in this rewarding experience.

Now, it’s time to go back to the McLuhan’s question. What will happen when this new medium be pushed in extremes?

This is the situation I call google blindness. I borrow the term from the famous experiment in inattentional blindness ran by Simons and  Charbis and is referred to as Focus Blindness.

In focus blindness, we are blind to many other objects in the context not due to visual impairment, but because of excessive focus on an object in the middle of the scene.

Same happens in the extreme state of search era. We are becoming google blind. after a couple of searches in the web, most of the other options not clicked and selected before will be dismissed as irrelevant.

Search engines try to customize results for us. This has been a great favor. But seems that the world is becoming narrower and many real objects and entities cease to exist in the virtual world as the search engines are trying to seek more relevant data.

This is not a new phenomenon. Just in older ages, the same happened to the kings. All of their men learned by experience that some of the news makes the king happy and the others will make him mad.

Gradually, everyone learned to be the messenger of good news and living the bad ones to the others. Kings became blind to the reality and it was the beginning of the end. Seems that the google is becoming our blinding company.

Now the question on the table: Who will reign the post-search era?