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Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Northern Light Should Stay Away from "General" Search

It's a well-known convetion in the comic book world that a character who dies, especially a main character, will never, ever stay dead. There will always be some writer with a kooky agenda who wants to bring them back to life in some dramatic and corny storyline. Remember when Superman "died" in 1993? Exactly. Now the search engine business is starting to "take a page" from comics and is emulating that goofy convention.

I received a press release via e-mail that proudly announced Northern Light's re-acquisition by former owner Dr. Seuss... I mean, C. David Seuss, former CEO of Northern Light. Seuss boasts that Northern Light will be making a comeback and will once again be a search engine, as opposed to whatever it was after Northern Light was acquired by Divine, which filed by bankruptcy protection.

Northern Light was hailed back in the day as one of the most powerful search engines, till Google came along, and set a new standard. However, I never found it to be very useful, and it became even less useful when it became a "research engine" for documents. Now that it's boldly going where many engines have gone before, to try to make a go of it as a general search engine.

As a search industry observer and webmaster, I say to Dr. Seuss: Don't go there. The world doesn't need another search engine that is no different than any of the others. If anything, what we do need are different types of search tools that perform specific tasks (vertical search engines or "vortals," if you will). Instead of search engine X trying to "be like Google," they should heed the lessons of Purple Cow and blaze a new trail, find a niche that's not being served and exploit it.

I doubt Northern Light will be wise enough to do that, and that's unfortunate. There's lots of room for search technology, but this "me-tooism" is just plain stupid.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




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