Search Engines vs Social Bookmarking Sites: Future of the Internet

What are Search Engines?

Search Engines are algorithm based systems which mine/dig information based on certain pre-determined factors and suggest the most relevant pages to the users. Popular examples of search engines are Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.

What are Social Bookmarking Sites?

Social Bookmarking Sites are websites which allow users to share their most liked pages and sites for other site users to discover. They rely more on the community than on computer programs for data-mining. Some popular examples are StumbleUpon, Delicious, Digg, Twitter and Facebook.

In this post we shall discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both types of sites and where the future of the internet lies.

Which is Better?

  1. Authenticity of Suggestions: As most bloggers and webmasters already know, search engines despite their huge popularity are subject to manipulation through Black Hat SEO. Similarly, you can spend say $10 to get a few hundred bookmarks for your page/site. Clearly, neither of them is foolproof as far as genuineness of suggested links is concerned. However, if you limit your social networks to trusted and well-known individuals, they are most likely to suggest relevant and authentic sites.
  2. User Base/Popularity: While Search Engines usually rely on the Click Through Rates of their results to determine the usefulness of their search results pages and thus the search algorithm, social bookmarking sites rely on the sheer number of users and shared items to determine their popularity. Definitely Google is the most popular website on the internet, but isn’t Facebook, with a userbase of over 750 million, catching up fast? Search Engines focus on technical data while social bookmarking sites are based on popular choices.
  3. Index Volume of Suggested pages/sites: Search Engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo index billions of webpages and then rank them using various technical factors, while the index of links shared on social bookmarking sites solely depends on discovery of new sites and pages by the users, which they then share with others. While the total number of links may be far less on social bookmarking sites, they are mostly useful. New pages have as much of a chance of becoming popular on bookmarking sites as old pages, and thus usefulness of the information/service provided is given more credence as opposed to SEO required for search engines.
  4. Time/Temporal Relevance of Information:Search Engines often provide tools like Sorting by time, relevance in terms of context etc. but new websites and blogs which do not lay much emphasis on SEO are likely to remain unnoticed by search engine users. In contrast, a site launched the day before can go viral in 24 hours if an influential person really likes the content and shares it with friends/followers.
  5. Volatility of Suggestions: As changes are implemented in search engine algorithms, like the Google Panda update, search engine result rankings are drastically changed. So, if you keep searching for information about a particular topic, and unable to find a particular page you found really useful earlier, you might never get what you want. On the other hand, social bookmarking sites allow you to “Bookmark” the sites/pages you like for future reference. Of course, you would be able to discover more and possibly better pages quickly using search engines.

Combination of both (Search Engines and Social Bookmarking Sites)?

In recent years, social bookmarking sites have developed advanced search engines, while search engines have developed systems for incorporating popular opinion about sites. Google has introduced “+1”, while Facebook has joined hands with Bing. Twitter, Delicious and other bookmarking sites have pretty cool search engines too!
Clearly, extremes are no longer as popular as hybrids.

Does the future lie in a single search engine which combines the best of all data-mining technologies or multiple services which offer a variety of results for a variety of users?

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