How Google Leeches from the Long Tail in the Centripetal Web
Outages can doom long-tail Web services providers. See the case of Bloglines, whose missing feeds forced users, including yours truly, to flock to Google Reader. The result is characterized in Nicholas Carr's blog post about the Centripetal Web, in which he describes how users are leaving the long tail for larger search engines such as Google, whose cloud computing chops are solid. The long tail is dead. Long live the long tail.For four years, I'd been a happy user of Bloglines, an RSS feed service owned by Ask.com since 2005. Then a funny thing happened a month or so ago.
Feeds to my Wall Street Journal subscription, the New York Times, Reuters and several other sites I troll daily to support my coverage became inaccessible.
My complaint e-mail to Bloglines' support team went unanswered. Did someone at Ask.com lay off the Bloglines team and forget to tell us? I spent a few days manually going to the absent sites, hoping the power would come back on for my missing feeds. No such luck.
So, around the time September slid into October, I turned to Google Reader, and even though Bloglines allegedly has remedied its balky ways, I haven't looked back.
In fact, I found myself wondering why I hadn't switched to Google Reader sooner. I use Google for general search and blog search, and I use Google's Gmail. I spend a portion of my work day reading Google's blogs for news bits. Wouldn't it make sense to go whole hog with Google for the Web services I need? I'll come back to that idea.
Earlier this week, I read a post on Nicholas Carr's Rough Type blog that perfectly summed up my position. It's called "The Centripetal Web," and it's a must-read.
Carr noted that while the majority of us a few years ago stumbled upon new sites via Yahoo or AltaVista, our laziness increased. We became Web congregators instead of Web surfers, hewing to a few sites whose popularity was enhanced by search algorithms.