Is Google crowdsourcing? Not quite

As described by Phil Lenssen at Google Blogoscoped and at Google Operating System — and apparently first spotted by Haochi at Googlified — Google is experimenting with a customized search function that allows users to “vote” search results up or down, or even suggest sites that match their search better than the ones Google has come up with. So is Google going to start “crowdsourcing” its search function, and letting people vote on search results Digg-style, as some are suggesting? Unlikely.

Duncan Riley at TechCrunch may be surprised, but this just sounds like just another step in customized search, which Google has been experimenting with for some time — as Google Operating System noted, there have been earlier experiments in letting you suggest new pages, change the order of results and even remove results. It makes sense to let you sort the results yourself, and then if you search for the same keywords again, you’ll be more likely to find pages that meet your needs.

So does that mean Google is going to start letting people vote on results in the Google index as a whole? I think the odds of that are approaching zero. After all, PageRank already effectively does that — people vote with their links. At some point, if there was enough usage of the experimental features, Google might allow some of that voting to influence whether it shows a link or how high it ranks (particularly with pages that are repeatedly removed), but I can’t see it affecting things that much.

If it did, one commenter on Flickr said, it would mean “another job for out-of-work gold farmers,” those poor souls who toil day and night completing virtual quests in World of Warcraft in order to earn gold for their employers. They could just switch to voting on search results.

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