Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Evolution of the Internet (or, What Has Microsoft Done For You Lately?)

In the ten years that Google has been searching the web, it has become fundamental to how many of us live our lives. In fact, it has even gained verb status; we no longer say that we're going to search, look up, or research a topic. Instead, we Google it. Don't know where your buddy's house is? Google it. Need a picture of Catherine of Aragon for your presentation? Google Images has what you need. Five years ago, putting together a research bibliography was a task involving multiple databases and multiple trips to the library. Today, Google Books and Google Scholar are all you need. In fact, this blog is published through Blogger, which is owned by, you guessed it, Google.

As we all know, Google is not the first Internet search engine. I remember first discovering Yahoo in 1995. Lo and behold, I could find the Bert is Evil website in seconds! For the next five or so years I remember shifting loyalties and heated debates as to whether Excite, Ask Jeeves, or Alta Vista was the best for your searching needs. And then Google hit and there was no looking back.

So, what's the point in rehashing all this recent history? This week, Microsoft announced a 44.6 million dollar bid to buy the fallen search engine mogul Yahoo. To put it in the simplest terms: WTF? What would tired old Microsoft want with the struggling Yahoo?

Few would argue that Microsoft has turned into a bit of a one trick pony... and a sick one at that, since the release of the Vista operating system last year. Microsoft has lost their connection to the social technological revolutions that are driving the market right now; even their much-trumpeted Zune MP3 player social networks have failed spectacularly due to the fact that no one will admit to actually owning one. Conversely, despite appearing to have dropped off the radar, Yahoo is currently working on/acquiring a number of social networking projects that they hope will keep them competitive with the Google empire. Remember the social bookmarking site or the photo sharing site Flickr? How about the social networking tool Upcoming? Though these projects are much less heralded than their Google counterparts, I would bet that Microsoft is hoping that the the acquisition of Yahoo will provide them with a much-needed social networking boost.

So, what does this all have to do with history? Um.... I don't know. But in an industry where history is made overnight, I will be quite interested in watching this escalating war for Internet supremacy over the few months.

1 comment:

Paola Gracile said...

You didn't mention Webcrawler, clearly the best search engine of the early nineties! Apparently it is still up and running, combining the results of multiple engines, but it was never the same after Google.
RIP Webcrawler.