Google’s getting a lot of flack for a less than spectacular launch of the gPhone (Nexus One). I’m not too worried about that, I think they’ll get it working. I’m also still optimistic about the Chrome OS netbook – though if it costs over $200 I’ve got yet another public mea culpa waiting.
On the other tentacle, I am getting bad feelings about two Google services I have long relied on – Search and Blogger. I think the problems may be related.
Blogger is the proverbial coal mine canary. It is clearly not thriving. There’s still no iPhone or DROID app for posting or editing, there’s an undocumented and unfixed 5000 post limit, there’s no mobile-optimized version of blog pages, the BlogThis bookmarklet was never updated to support categories, the rich text editor has many longstanding bugs, there’s no spam detection on comments, the Blogger in Draft blog was silent from Nov 28 through Jan 20 (yesterday!) and so on.
Why isn’t Google investing in Blogger? My best guess would be some mix of
- Inability to manage Blogger spam blogs (splogs)
- High success rate of search index poisoning comment spam
- High rate of click fraud related to Blog associated adwords
- Low rate of revenue from Blogger adwords
- Declining readership numbers
- Failure of the confusing “Follower” and Google Reader note/comment programs
- Confusion from the rise of Twitter (confuses me too) and Facebook
Several items on my speculative list implicate search index poisoning problems. These “Search engine optimization” scams degrade search results, which leads to a spiral of click fraud and declining ad word revenue.
Which brings me to the bigger Google problem. The quality of the search results is deteriorating. On technical topics that I search on, I’m getting a large number of junk web sites. I have to use my Google custom searches to find good results. When I search on hard-to-find answers that I know I’ve addressed in my own ad-free tech blog, I don’t get any useful hits at all. It’s not just that I don’t find my marvelous stuff – I don’t find any answers anywhere.
In several instances, Bing has done better. In particular, Bing seems to find fewer splogs and fraudulent ad-heavy pages – perhaps because the scummy SEO gang is still optimizing for Google. (Bing’s time will come.)
Google is only as good as their search engine, and that engine is under relentless attack from the same emergent attacks that killed usenet and severely wounded email. At the moment, the parasites are winning – and threatening to kill their current host.
Google needs a winning response. They’ve got bigger problems than lousy phone service.
Update 1/21/10: See comments for a response from one of Bloggers Product Managers, it's an encouraging rebuttal. Per that comment I corrected the name of the Blogger in Draft blog; the official Blogger blog is http://buzz.blogger.com.