UGC – billions and billions of $ made

Posted on 2006/05/11

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Finally, finally I get it. User Generated Content (UGC) is already a billion dollar industry. I mean: look at Google.

Philipp Lenssen of Google Blogoscoped is quoting Google CEO Eric Schmidt from Googles Pressday 2006: “We’re moving to the next state of the internet where it’s all about people and expression” – search is still the focus, he adds.

But why would search qualify as UGC? To quote Schmidt again: The Google “aha” moment for many was when you use their search and say, “wow, that’s amazing.” Eric says these small personal “aha” moments created Google’s viralness, and they’re different for different persons.

Search is personal. Well, maybe not the single word you type into a box and press return. But your search patterns are pretty unique. And with Google Co-op, search results and UGC get a bit closer together.

It might not be ready for prime time (The product is an open platform but it’s very difficult to understand and use right now, even for a geek like me, writes Steve Rubel in Micro Persuasion). But the gist is: you can label websites you like – and people can subscribe to your choices. Everythings going to be integrated into search (as search is just an interface to a collection of information).

Searching the engine already creates you a potentially personal collection of content. Tagging and qualifying those results creates another layer of meta-content – which now can be re-fed into the search engine.
The NY Times quotes Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president for search products. “A little bit of human involvement goes a long way,” Ms. Mayer said. Which is a cutesy way of saying that algorithms can get you just so far. In a certain way, the geekly kingdom is following the tracks of Yahoo! and its latest buyouts (Flickr, Webjay, del.icio.us …).

As an example: Palatable computer generated restaurant recommendations would be real rocket science. Why? Taste buds are fickle. That’s why the typical consumer recommendation site are quack, too. If you want to have a nice dinner, why would you trust the recommendation of a persons who’s social life (or, at least the part that you’re aware of) is about recommending products and services you’ll never need? Let’s see, how Co-op tackles this.
Google Notebook takes yet another step of blending user interactions (searching, choosing from results, dismissing most of them …) into content. The idea: take the bland results. And let the user pick the best hits and annotate them. “If someone has planned a great Hawaiian vacation with great research into snorkel boats, they should be able to share it,” Ms. Mayer said.

As Steve Rubel writes regarding Co-op: I would love to see them layer in Blogger so that there is some editorial around these results as well. We haven’t seen Notebook yet. But it does already sound a bit like Blogger light. Instead of Blog This, it’s put it in your Notebook.

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Posted in: on digital, UGC, web2.0