If Hakia were using an automotive analogy, the site might be saying to Google, “We’re BMW, you’re Chevrolet.” The Hakia blog explains how the engine is taking a “quality” approach, trying to assess the credibility of sites in ranking them, together with the help of professional librarians. Hakia specifically discusses this in the context of health-related search and contrasts its approach with that of “popularity,” a general reference to Google’s original PageRank algorithm.
The company says that it will roll out “Quality Search” in a range of verticals — “law, finance, science, and in many other content-rich verticals” — based upon expert sources and librarian-aided indexing.
Stepping back, the irony here is that it’s a bit of a return to the “directory” approach of old. At the highest level, humans originally compiled lists of websites (e.g., the original Yahoo directory). That was eventually replaced by machine algorithms when the internet got to be too large to categorize everything with an editorial staff. Enter Google.
But when the internet became so large that information overload became somewhat overwhelming and routine, the trend of human-powered search or “social search” emerged to rectify some of the seeming randomness and inefficiency of these giant indexes. Social search, generally speaking, thus sought to inject a community filter into search results (e.g., Eurekster).
Hakia’s blog post and approach suggests a return to the “top-down” editorial efforts of the earlier days, albeit with the knowledge base and capabilities of today’s internet. (This simplification probably doesn’t fully capture what they’re doing.)
One can also see the blended/universal search trend as an effort to get to “answers” beyond the information overwhelm that intrudes into the prior “10 blue links” approach that defined general web search for years.