On the future of search, dumb people, and marketers squished into goo

Ian Lurie

I got to participate in the ‘Future of Search’ panel today at the Seattle Interactive Conference. Two subjects came up that I must expand on a bit:

My car

This is my car. It is a Buick Regal Turbo. It is awesome:


My car - is it not nifty?

OK, now that that’s done with.

What scares me about the future of search

I got to talk, briefly, about what it is in search’s future that scares me. There are three things, and they only scare me when taken together:

  • Big, monstrous entities controlling the lion’s share of most traffic online, because they control search. Don’t tell me about social media. Search still drives transactions. Social will get there, but it ain’t there yet.
  • Dumb people forcing those big monstrous entities to make bad decisions.
  • Marketers get squished into goo.

Case in point: Google’s decision to limit access to search query data. Right now, it affects, what, 10% of search queries? 5%? So what’s the big deal?

Mobile. Mobile is the big deal. Android is now 50% of the market. Most Android users are signed into Google, all the time. So we’ll be cut off from enormous amounts of data. Data that we can use to make marketing more efficient. Data publishers can use to sell and target their own advertising.

This is just an example. But it’s really telling.

There’s no Big Evil (or Big Good)

Google doesn’t have to be Evil to end up really screwing things up. I suspect the whole search query privacy debacle started with Google trying to head off ridiculous regulation by the EU and other clueless folk.

And, for all their genius, Google doesn’t seem to make the most brilliant non-technical strategic decisions.

This also has the convenient side effect of providing Google a monopoly over data they collect from millions of searchers.


So, to review: Big companies control internet commerce. Dumb legislators make dumb laws. Big companies respond to dumb laws in dumb ways. Marketers get smushed into goo.

So yeah. I’m a little scared.

It’s not all bad

Search is fantastic. Search lets us do incredible stuff. I love it. But it’s like lots of other great inventions: It’s part blessing, part curse. Step carefully.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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