Friday, April 11, 2008

I Have A Dream, and It Isn't a Black Search Engine

Mediaweek is reporting on a new search engine focused on African Americans. IAC and subsidiary Black Web Enterprises say that is the "first-ever search engine catering specifically to African American interests." The site works on a patented algorithm that determines which Web sites are most frequently visited by African Americans, then merges that data into a mainstream search crawl.

I am deeply conflicted about this new site. On the one hand, focusing on the needs of a group of people with similar surfing habits and information goals simply makes sense. But we're not talking about a content site here; we're talking about a search engine.

The key to success for search engines is to provide the most relevant results, and I suppose if RushmoreDrive provides results that are viewed as being more relevant to a portion of the Internet audience, more power to it. But when a user enters search terms such as "New York Giants," "Internet Marketing Job Openings," or "Beyonce," does the race of the searcher really matter? It's hard for me to imagine that the way we search and the results we expect are related to the color of our skin.

Maybe the problem I have with the concept has nothing to do with marketing and much to do with my world view. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his famous "I have a dream" speech, "With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day." Apparently we just can't search and use the Internet together.

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