New Networks “Reshape” the Web

There is too much information. There are too many web pages. How does one search for what they seek? Search engines provide significant utility, but we still have to exert energy to find what we need after results are surfaced. The new crop of social media companies help discovery come online and threaten traditional search. With these new tools, users are able to collect and clip the bits of the web that they are most interested in and, in the process, disregard the rest as noise. Twitter, Tumblr, Quora, and Pinterest all allow users to decide what aspects of the web (text, media, etc) are worth sharing, so rather than browsing the web from Google, or even Facebook for that matter. Because these networks have asymmetric follow/follower models, and because users (people and brands) can “tune” whom they are following, users’ feeds (theoretically) become more and more relevant as items are retweeted, tumbled, or repinned. Today, Pinterest is focused around images, whereas Twitter, Quora, and Tumblr are around aggregated multimedia content, though both have their own limits. These all present threats to Google and I’d argue even Facebook, as online behaviors could slowly shift from intent-based search on Google (“I need some pants”) to discovery based on following people and brands we’re interested in (“Check out how cool these pants are”). These four networks allow for self-expression, but in doing so, re-sort and re-shape the web we see, and that is a very big shift away from search and toward social discovery.