Google's Orion :: The Next
Shining Star or a Burnt Ember?

By now you have probably heard that Google bought a new algorithm developed
by a university student down under.

Many in the industry have speculated on what this could mean. Will this
transform Google yet again? Or, will it merely be just another piece of
technology they buy but don't appear to use.

In this article, I look at the implications of Orion and what it could mean
to the future of search.

In order to understand the issues at play, we must first understand just
what the heck Google bought.

Orion is a new algorithm which in a nutshell works like Ask or Clusty in
that it will not only match results based on keywords but also similar
results based on concepts around those keywords.

For example, if you were to search for "Canada" you may get not only the
Government of Canada website, but also websites dealing with history, sites
talking about the official languages of Canada (there are two official
languages in case you were wondering) and more.

Similar to how Ask allows you to drill up or down to narrow or broaden your

Many people feel that Orion will "revolutionize" Google. And, while it will
be interesting to see what Google does with the technology, I'm more
inclined to agree with Danny Sullivan's assessment. In a recent article he
basically says "So what?"

Mind you, I don't think this is as ho-hum an issue as Danny makes it out to
be. However, I also don't think it's as huge a deal as others have made it.

For example, Danny says, "When Google acquired the three people from Kaltix
along with their search technology back in 2003, it hardly created a
revolutionary change for us soon after." And I'd have to disagree with him.

While the results of the Kaltix acquisition weren't immediately obvious,
they did show up, at least partly, a little later on in the "update from
hell" as many webmasters still call it today. It was also known as the
Florida Update.

I do agree with this assessment also made by Danny in the article: "It
sounds like Allon mainly developed an algorithm useful in pulling out better
summaries of web pages."

Because, the way I see it, that is all this is: A way to make the search
experience a little more useful.

Will This Revolutionize Search?

I don't think so. But it does do a couple of things for Google:

For one, it makes it easier for users to find the data they want on Google.
Which, in turn, improves loyalty to the engine ultimately increasing the
company's bottom line.

And another big reason for the purchase? To keep the technology out of the
hands of the competition. Namely, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

So What Will Orion Do For Search?

Well, as I mentioned, it will make it easier to find information on Google.
For example, if you can't find what you want in the immediate results, if
you can scan some related terms to find other terms which could match what
you are looking for and then view results there, it can help.

Also, look at what such a search does to the searcher. No longer does the
searcher hit a result and leave the engine. Nöw, they could spend longer on
the engine, potentially reviewing more results and obviously being exposed
to more ads.

In reality, while this is a nice bell or whistle, the only one who's really
going to benefit is Google. That's because it increases ad exposures;
meaning that more ads get seen, which means a greater chance of an ad being
clicked on.

Will the Average Person Use It?

In all honesty I doubt it. I think it's a tool guys like me will use. You
know the type – always into the latest and greatest (if buggy) things. Those
things that have a coolness factor.

But, in reality the average person doesn't care about these types of
gimmicks. They just want the search engine to show them the right result
every time. If you force users to hunt for the right results, you risk them
switching engines until they find what they're looking for.

Therefore, the average user will probably say "hmm that's interesting, but
what I really want to see better be in the top 2 or 3 results."

In the end Orion will do a couple of things for Google. It will add some new
functionality that some will (but most won't) use, and it ensures that
Microsoft and Yahoo! have to build the technology to remain competitive.

In the end, Danny was mostly right: Google gets another good employee and
the technology may give them "another evolutionary change that may improve
things over time, rather than instantly." Rob Sullivan


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