Sylver - 6:22 am on Jul 31, 2010 (gmt 0)
Around 2002-2003, the model of the web changed. Portals became irrelevant. Search engines became the main issue. It also took a few years for Google to become #1.
And now, again, in 2009-2010, the web is changing again. Search is no longer the focus. It's now social connections.
Portals and Search are solutions to exactly the same problem: How do I find stuff on the Internet. Search was the item in 2001, but it wasn't good enough, which is why human-reviewed directories were sprouting all over the place and people found it easier to use portals than to search and then wade in pages and pages of fully irrelevant results. Comes Google and suddenly search becomes a better way to find stuff. Combined to the fact that directories could never scale to keep up with the growth of the Internet, search replaced directories.
Social connections on the other end, ARE NOT solving that same problem. The problem of finding stuff on the Internet is pretty much solved. You search for it, and most of the time, you will find it.
Social may be all the buzz these days, but it is a solution to a different problem linked to the growth of the internet. 5-6 years ago, the internet was all about businesses and content providers. You had something to sell, something to promote, or whatever, and you put it on the web for people to see. Online Social interactions were going on already, but outside the web (ICQ piked at 100M users), and mostly available to the somewhat technically inclined. Techies have been able to do pretty much everything that's available on Facebook today for the last 10 years.
Now that members of the general public spend a significant part of their time online and build very real relationships with people they have never met in person comes the need for simple social media where people can maintain their own networks of friends, create a personal presence, share pictures and stuff...
Anyway, the bottom line is that social media is a solution to a different problem, and it will not replace search, because it can't, the same way that search can't replace social media. You can ask questions on social network, but if you really started asking as many questions as you ask Google, you will quickly be told that GIYF. Plus asking a question on Facebook is never going to be as fast as typing the same question in Google. The questions you can efficiently ask on social media are quite different from the question you can efficiently ask on Google. Google will tell you the speed of light, Facebook will tell you if Jenny is still dating that *** who got drunk at the party last month. Google can't tell you much about Jenny's current status, and Facebook can't tell you the speed of light... unless one of your friends looks for it on Google, and then tells you.
Google growth "problem" with search is that search is mostly a solved problem, and that pretty much everyone has agreed search is the way to find data on the Internet, and it works reasonably well. They solved that problem pretty well and became a multi-billion dollars business in the process. Now, they need to find and solve another major problem to get back to the same growth model.