The Portal Is Back: What Do You Love? Answer: 1998

June 28, 2011

I labor in the goose pond in the hollow in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky. Time stands still in Harrod’s Creek. No joke. One can see walkers, bicyclists, and even horse riders in these parts. What did I see yesterday? A blast from the past: The “new” What Do You Love” service from the Google. If you have not heard about the site from the savvy folks in Silicon Valley—”Google Quietly Rolls Out A Range of Google Product Results on One Page”—you definitely want to catch up with the Google. My goodness, there are so many informed sources available from prolific experts on other information centric Web sites, WDYL is going viral.

You can check out the service yourself, by navigating to You will see a Yandex-style basic search box, sort of a reminder of the way things were at Google and now are at Yandex.


Now run a query for Riemann Hypothesis, which is similar to the type of query that most people run when testing services in my experience. What does display? A mash up of frames that is a portal dressed up in a meat dress. These “containers” present “relevant” results for the user’s query. Here’s what I saw:


A couple of points:

  • There were two empty containers. Yikes. I thought that Google would expand the semantic cloud in order to show close matches. Guess not in the case of “Riemann hypothesis.” So two null sets.
  • I did not find the offer to “translate” Riemann Hypothesis into 57 languages particularly helpful. Most people who care about the hypothesis recognize the string as it is presented in most of the math books I have examined, including the ones in Hong Kong in March. Yep, English worked, so another null set.
  • The photo album is interesting but not germane to my test query. The reason is that this “love” service is more of a demo than a useful and intelligent enhancement for my queries. I did like the mini version of an equation which when I clicked it did nothing. No link I suppose for those who like equations.
  • The maps container was a zero as well.

Here’s what I wanted to see in a Google container but did not:


Note that the Yandex display provides a link to the Wikipedia write up which is okay with me. The main hit for me was this one:


For me Yandex delivers on point search results quickly without the “controlled chaos” thing with the null sets, offers to show maps, and other ephemera. No wonder content free content is having such a Six Flags day at the Googleplex.

My initial take is, therefore, pretty much what I noted in the title to this post. Yep, it is 1998. As you may recall, Google rose to fame and fortune because search vendors were chasing the notion of a one stop shop or portal. Google perceives itself as sufficiently big to warrant its own portal.

I think the demo is interesting, but what strikes me is that as Google struggles to make coherent the outputs of controlled chaos, Yandex is chugging along poised to grow as Google loops back to the presentation idea that distracted Excite, Inktomi, Lycos, Yahoo and other search vendors in 1998.

Google exploited that distraction. Will Yandex do the same? Will Google react as did Yahoo in 1998? Exciting times in the world of content free content and empty containers.

Stephen E Arnold, June 28, 2011

From the leader in next-generation analysis of search and content processing, Beyond Search.


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