It’s been said that Google doesn’t get ‘social’ and, though I think that is vastly overstated, there is truth there. Similarly, I’d say that Apple doesn’t understand the internet. Well I have a simple theory about it. There’s a cliché that everyone’s greatest strength is also their greatest weakness, and I believe that applies as well to organizations as to people.
Take Apple. They make amazing, holistic products and services and one of their primary tools is control. Fanatical, centralized control. Control over the design, over the hardware, over the experience. And that’s exactly the opposite of the internet, which is about decentralization and messy, unfiltered chaos.
Google, on the other hand, gets the internet, but has trouble with humans. And I’d say it’s not so much because it’s an engineering-heavy organization or that Google doesn’t know how to have fun (both reasons I’ve seen stated publicly). I think it’s that one of Google’s biggest strengths is in search, which is largely about things like precision and recall, about stitching the chaos of the internet into some semblance of order. But social interactions happen in the variance, in the messy spaces that seem meaningless. Much social meaning is carried by phatic communication and that is exactly opposite to what Google does, which is to optimize signal vs. noise, looking for the meaning and discarding the meaningless.
Presumably, we can find the undoing of other organizations in their strengths. What, for example, is Microsoft really, really good at? Or Facebook?
Peter Morville’s Ambient Findability looks well worth reading (my copy’s on the way).
Amazon has launched a (beta) search engine called A9. Since you’re already a registered member of Amazon, they can do things like saving your most recent searches and noting when you’ve followed a given result link. Of course Yahoo could do the same, but probably has figured that privacy concerns might keep people from using the search engine if it’s tracking their search behavior, e.g. “Your most recent search: ‘Britney Spears naked’.”
Amazon has added the ability to search the text of some of their books. The nicest part is that the results show the context and then link to a scan of the page they were found on. This is the kind of thing the Library of Congress should have done years ago.
I didn’t realize that search engines don’t really use the Meta Keywords tag any more: Search Engine Features For Webmasters.