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The reason for that is because Google's building for a mainstream audience, because the mainstream (by definition) is much bigger than any niche. They increase aggregate happiness (though not your specific happiness) a lot more by doing so.

It's probably possible to build a search engine for a specific vertical that's better than Google. However, you face a few really big problems that make this not worthwhile:

1) Speaking from experience, it's very difficult to define what "better" means when you don't have exemplars of what queries are likely and what the results should be. The reason search engines are a product is that they let us find things we didn't know existed before; if we don't know they exist, how can we tweak the search engine to return them?

2) People go to a search engine because it has the answers for their question, no matter what their question is. If you had a specific search engine for games, and another for celebrities, and another for flights, and another for hotels, and another for books, and another for power tools, and another for current events, and another for technical documentation, and another for punditry, and another for history, and another to settle arguments on the Internet, then pretty soon you'd need a search engine to find the appropriate search engine. We call this "Google", and as a consumer, it's really convenient if they just give us the answer directly rather than directing us to another search engine where we need to refine our query again.

3) Google makes basically 80% of their revenue from searches for commercial products or services (insurance, lawyers, therapists, SaaS, flowers, etc.) The remainder is split between AdSense, Cloud, Android, Google Play, GFiber, YouTube, DoubleClick, etc. (may be a bit higher now). Many queries don't even run ads at all - when was the last time you saw an ad on a technical programming query, or a navigational query like [facebook login]? All of these are cross-subsidized by the commercial queries, because there's a benefit to Google from it being the one place you go to look for answers. If you build a niche site just to give good answers to programming queries or celebrity searches or current events, there's no business model there.




> It's probably possible to build a search engine for a specific vertical that's better than Google.

Funny, I don't disagree with this, but my perception has been that Google seems to detect when I've switched roles from one type of programmer to another. I don't know if that's organic from the topics I'm looking up or not, but if I'm looking up a generic string search, it seems to return whatever language I've been searching for recently. (very recently in fact)

My point is, it seems like the search engine intuitively understands my "vertical" already. Maybe it's just because developer searches are probably pretty optimized.


I think its totally possible, two examples already:

Google Ads (used to?) lets you target by "bahaviour" vs "in-market". They can tell the difference between someone who is passionate about beds, maybe involved in the bed business (behavior) and the people who are making the once-in-a-decade purchase of a bed (in-market).

Google can tell devices apart on the same google account and keep together search threads. I might be programming on my desktop making engineering searches but at the same time I'm googling memes on my phone; both logged into the same account.


> Speaking from experience, it's very difficult to define what "better" means when you don't have exemplars of what queries are likely and what the results should be.

Better is a search engine that takes your queries more literal. This is what everybody means when they say Google used to be better. The query keywords and no second guessing.

When you insist on Google using verbatim mode or something, you often don't get results. Which is bullshit because I remember 10 years ago, queries like these had me plowing through the results, so much that you actually had to refine the query -- you can't do that in Google any more, at least it's not refining, it's more like re-wording and re-rolling the dice. But it all feels very random and you don't get a feel for what's out there.

I mean sure there is a place for a search engine like this, if it works well. And in its own way, Google works well.

I sometimes do want my query to be loosely interpreted like I'm an idiot, and I head straight for the Google. Ever since I saw the "that guy wot gone painted them melty clocks"-meme, for certain types of queries I have indeed found that if I formulate my question like I got brain damage, I get superior results. Because that is the kind of audience Google wants you to be.

But sometimes you don't feel like the lowest common denominator and you don't want to be treated as such. And there should be a place for that, too.


Very interesting perspective. I completely understand your point. It used to be a tool, not it is more like a system with a mind of its own. I might need both.


Why do you say there is no business model in a search niche? StackOverflow and pleny of listing sites (Tripadvisor, Yelp, Zillow, Capterra to name a few) have been successfully built in this exact premise and the user experience of searching for restaurants, real state or software on these sites is usually much better than searching directly on Google due to the availability of custom filters and the amount of domain-specific metadata that the global search engines cannot read. While it's true that most of these sites heavily rely on SEO to drive inbound traffic from the big G, there is no doubt that they are perfectly viable businesses.


StackOverflow and those other sites aren't search engines. They may have search engines in them but not many people use them (the only time I reach StackOverflow, booking.com etc is via search engine referral). They're user content hosting and curation sites.


Technically you are correct, in the sense that they do not crawl the web like Google or Bing do. But from a user perspective, they do provide a very useful service of aggregation, discovery and comparison of structured data that is way more effective than using Google search queries, if you know the type of information you are looking for.


It's the corpus that matters, mostly. The StackExchange sites are Q&A formatted and with an SKG graph (such as in solr), you can do topic extraction on questions OR answers which then leads to being able to match other answers (with links) to other questions, among other things. With related topics, many other things come to life.


Sure, they have a business reason to do exactly what they do but I think as people grow up they specialize and the general stuff that fits everybody becomes useless. Google tries to personalize search results but that so far yielded echo chambers, not personalized discoveries.

I can't get better products by searching Google, I can get the best-spammed products or most promoted products only.

The fact that I am getting low-quality service and Google is printing money means that there is a place for good a good service and if that service cannot emerge due to Google's practices, it probably means that the regulators need to take action.

Or maybe the search is dead, long live social media.

The gist is, I am not happy with a service but the company that makes that product makes a lot of maney. Can't tell if I am an anomaly or if other people feel the same way because Google is a monopoly and maybe the regulators should make it possible to compete with Google and see if there's a space for a better service.

Yes yes, I am the product but I am the product only if I am happy with the stuff I'm getting in return.


... in return for you being the product? Haha. I don't think Google sees their end of that "transaction" being an actual transaction. You're an individual, and Google doesn't deal with those.


How would google's practices stop me from creating a search engine?

Keep in mind when Google started, Yahoooooo! Was the big player and Google overtook them by simply being better


Everything turns into an echo chamber eventually.


> navigational query like [facebook login]

Definitely have seen malicious adds for "facebook login", though that was probably 2016 or 2017.




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