by adam mathes
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Returning Aggregate Value

I don’t think that harvesting user generated content and wrapping it in ads and Facebook comments – I don’t think there’s value there. I don’t think they’re returning value to this ecosystem.

Chris Poole on the rise of meme aggregator sites

The whole talk is great.

The point is true beyond the particular example of memes and “mainstream” aggregator sites.

Similarly, the “deal” that search engines struck with web sites was that crawling their sites, excerpting them, and putting ads on search results pages was a fair deal in exchange for sending traffic.

But when the companies behind search engines start running competitive sites and services themselves – and link to them – that deal is in some ways fundamentally broken. (Portals were the logical conclusion of this. Portals have now morphed into things called “universal search” and “social networking platforms.”)

With the long web page often now supplanted by the single paragraph, image, or 140 character unit of content an excerpt is the whole thing.

Though it would have seemed crazy a few years ago to think this, opting-out, severely limiting, even charging access to search engines may be a critical and savvy business move for some companies now. See: Facebook, Twitter. You don’t want to be Yelp.

(Related: not giving Facebook any data about your users or application usage may also be a key competitive advantage for some companies now.)

When aggregators present other people’s content in such a way as to remove any need to view the aggregated content in its original context, the same basic deal is broken. (See: Pinterst, and I’d argue, a lot of what goes on in Tumblr.)

“Traditional” blogging generally does not have this problem. There’s no doubt that sites like waxy or kottke create and return immense value through their writing and links back into the ecosystem.

(Side-note for further analysis: while we closely associate search engines with the rise of the Web and being the antithesis of the walled gardens like AOL that proceeded it, search is itself an intermediator. And the internet is generally a force for disintermediation. The free and independent web and commercial search engines may over time have conflicting interests.)

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