In an email conversation, Danny Sullivan (he of Search Engine Watch fame) and I recently were discussing last week’s post on Froogle. Danny disagreed with my premise that Google’s actions were inconsistent, in fact, he believes they may well be consistent with a new and evolving interface approach that he calls “invisible tabs.” He explains the idea here. The gist: search engines will intuit what you are looking for behind the scenes, and deliver to you the results most consistent with that intuition, making the tab format redundant in the first place.
As Danny put it in an email to me:
The real departure is going to be if Google finally makes the jump and gives you back 10 product/Froogle results at some point, and suggest that you might also search the web, for some queries, rather than the web dominance we get now. That will be them fully putting into play this whole invisible tabs concept that I’ve been talking about recently.
Danny points out that Google already does this with News. Try searching for “George Bush,” for example. You’ll see News results at the top. Google is intuiting that you wanted news on George Bush, or at the very least, that news about George Bush is relevant to your search.
Same thing for Froogle results, Danny explains: “They’re hitting the Froogle database in automated fashion, and if the automated system feels confident enough, you get Froogle results displayed. No different really in look, feel and operation than searching for “iraq” and getting news results.”
Well, yes…and no. What I find interesting is this part of the idea: ” If the automated system feels confident enough, you get Froogle results displayed.” No matter what, code = architecture, and architecture = politics. Somebody had to code that Froogle algorithm to determine its confidence/intuition with regard to your search. Google, and any other search engine worth its shareholder’s money, will never tell you how it makes those decisions. They are the Invisible Hands of the automated search process. The men behind the curtains.
And therein lies the interesting bits.
Regardless, we should all give Google a lot of credit for having neither paid inclusion nor referral fees in their shopping engine. That is leaving a lot of money on the table toward a greater end, and an indication of the philosophy which guides them.