The Financial Times ran an article today on MySpace looking for a search partner. There are many interesting things about this article. The first comes in the first paragraph.
MySpace, the fast-growing “social networking” site, is in talks to forge a internet search link with either Google or Microsoft, in a move that would confirm the emergence of Rupert Murdoch’s internet site as a significant new power online.
First off, why is "social networking" in quotes? Is social networking not a valid term? In the same article Steve Balmer is quoted:
Steve Ballmer, chief executive CEO of Microsoft, added: “All the analysis suggests that’s where all the growth will come from.”
So he seems to think it's fairly valid.
But what's most interesting is that MySpace (NewsCorp) apparently doesn't really know what they are doing.
“They are looking for a partner and trying to figure it out,” said a senior executive of one of the internet search companies.
So MySpace wants to introduce Search into their system. Why?
Search, increasingly is a utility over represented on the desktop. Between the search box in the upper right corner of my browser, the automated search if I type in keywords into the address box, and the google toolbar in my tray, I am pretty well inundated with search options.
Why do I want my MySpace page to have search too? I don't. The user doesn't. That screen real estate is too valuable to me to waste on an already thrice-redundant (or thrice-met) need.
Social animals want to interact socially in social settings. MySpace is a social setting. Search is a utility that we can use along side of our social settings, but don't necessarily need to be incorporated into them.
If MySpace were truly interested in user benefit, they'd build plug-ins for Firefox and IE 7 that introduce MySpace-specific searches into the browser tool bar. Then MySpace would extend beyond its current boundaries and users could make the most of their MySpace pages.
However, as the faceless Search spokesperson was quoted in the FT article:
“They have a good opportunity to increase the revenue on that property.”
Revenues increase while usability decreases. This sounds like a good opportunity to see short term profit at the risk of long term user satisfaction.