On Monday, Google made a relatively big announcement about a new extension they are offering for the Chrome Browser. The extension allows you to block sites that were irrelevant or misleading to your search inquiry. After talking to some of my colleagues and friends about this extension, their opinions range from the "who cares" to the "this is scary".
The extension is part of a long term experiment which Google has been conducting regarding the integration of searching the web and your social circle. If Web 2.0 was the emergence of media and social networking, then Web 3.0 will be the merger between the information of the World Wide Web and the communities and people we have connected to.
One assumption which led to the original algorithm for the Google search engine were that the number of links into a site made it a more valuable content. This was logical considering that if more people are linking to your page then the more relevant your content must be. For the most part this worked, however many have exploited this principle to various degrees creating massive amounts of pages full of backlinks known as link farms. People purchase space on the site and are more likely to come up as a search result because of the massive amount of ranking they hold on Google.
There was a time when results from search engines was almost completely worthless and good websites spread via word of mouth. This has changed a lot in the last few years but there is still the frustration that comes from clicking on the top search result only to have it be unhelpful or worse, unrelated.
With this extension, Google is saying that they want their search results to be influenced by your world. Using the real world to influence the information you see is not completely new to Google. If you are searching in a certain geographical area for a store or food, Google will provide results near your location. Similarly, when you are searching for an Educational support and ideas, you should have results that reflect your community and situation rather than just what is highest viewed/ranked which might be irrelevant to you.
In the long term I see the link farms diminishing and stronger online communities of learning. Rather than one search result for all, younger students searching for answers about Newton's Second Law would see different results than a undergraduate Physics major. This makes the web more relevant and understandable. In my opinion it will also help us see where the gaps in content are and also how we can better serve different groups. Currently the sharing of resources is limited to P2P, I directly share a link with you via Facebook, Twitter, email, etc, but if the search engines start doing this for us, then I can benefit from those in the educational field without having to directly connect with you.
We are all connected but people want different things when they come to the Web, if our social connections influence what we see, it will become more tightly integrated into how we learn and live.
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