I have been an Internet user from the very early days when the maximum dial-up connection was no more than 14.4Kbs. Then, the few sites that existed were void of images, videos or extensive graphics. Most of these sites were gateways to fairly raw data and text, found using search engines that have long since disappeared. For obvious reasons advertising was almost non-existent.
So to today; we enjoy a truly information and media rich web at high speed (for most) with only a few search engines dominating the scene. What’s not to like? Well, for me, there are a few things that are becoming increasingly annoying and actually obstructive to the usability of the web.
The first of these annoyances is advertising. Let me just say, that I do appreciate that a ‘free’ service has to generate revenue somehow. But, and this maybe just my experience, I feel the current method of displaying advertising based on previous web sites visited is fundamentally flawed. For business and personal use I purchase many things online and have done so for many years. However, every advert I see is too late! I have already bought the item, or decided not to, by the time the adverts kick in. I’m sorry but if I did not find the item I wanted at the time I was on a particular site, I am not going to go back later – no matter how many times an advert appears annoyingly when I am viewing something else.
The second annoyance is search engines trying to second guess what I am looking for based on previous search. While this may work for some, it is a no no for me. Working for clients from a diverse range of industries I could be researching surface coatings for aerospace components, quickly followed by lighting for hazardous areas. I want results not influenced by advertising, my location or whatever I searched for previously.
My feeling is that the leading search engines are crossing the line from being helpful to trying to be too clever. Inevitably, advertising is a giant cash cow, one that shareholders in these huge online businesses will want to wring more and more from. The dominance of search by a few companies, seemingly giving greater prominence to advertising over natural search, begins to undermine confidence in the search results presented. I hope search results do not just become a list of those who have the deepest pockets to influence the outcome while those web sites with genuinely useful information end up obscured down on screen 50 because they don’t, won’t or can’t afford to pay the going rate.