A lot of discussion has focused on how celebrities, businesses and industries expand. Perhaps one of the least discussed, at least from my point of view, is search engines. I have come across two articles lately that suggest that search engine companies being solely dedicated to developing search technology is a thing of the past. Search engine companies are expanding the definition of a search engine company by delving into new categories and endeavors. One example is Google. Back in November, Google launched a website called boutiques.com, which you can read more about in Edward Helmore’s “Google Targets Fashion Market”
. The site directs viewers to existing fashion retailer websites such as Net-A-Porter and hosts virtual shops of designers and celebrities. Google’s attempt to become not only a destination for all searches but a resource for each category of search. Boutiques.com may just be the beginning of categorized search pages that are owned by search engine giants like Google. Another interesting development is that search engines are developing personalized touches for their news pages, as Barry Schwartz notes in “Google News Adds ‘Follow News’ Button, Easy Way to Customize Home Page”
. Using the example of Google again, one has only to look at its Google News page. Users can now click the ‘Follow News’ button after doing a search on Google News and the content is added to their Google News home page along with a link to that search in the left side column (which with further clicks keeps you abreast of recent developments on your favorite topics).
In addition to search engines, other publishers are using a feature called ‘AddThis’ to track how their content is shared, who it is shared by and their interests. Marshall Kirkpatrick, author of ”1 Billion Peoples’ Interests Now Tracked by AddThis”
discusses how data gained from this feature leads to more personalization of content. The flip side of this is that some people are simply not interested in being tracked. In fact, as Edmund Lee’s article “American’s Say ‘No Thanks’ to Online Tracking, New Poll Finds”
reports, implementation of a ’Do Not Track’ list has been suggested by the FTC. If established, this may make it harder for marketers to gather audience data. In that case it would be interesting to see whether they would revert to traditional methods of obtaining that data or whether a loophole could be found that would allow this trend to continue. Both the expansion of search engines and the development of personalization and tracking features are trends to watch. They are similar to other models that have gone before them. For example stores that used to only go by one name now are linked to several stores with different names that are all under the same company. This is essentially what search engine companies are exploring. Video game systems like X-Box found that gamers were searching for more personalization, now their video game systems are a storage system for a whole virtual world where the user is represented by an avatar of themselves and their favorite games and scores are archived and bookmarked. Real life examples replicated in the virtual world via the Internet. A new field of competition is born.