After years of barely changing at all, Google has unveiled a major change for its Google Blog Search tool. As a whole bunch of people are reporting, the site now provides a kind of “meme-tracker” view of what’s being written about. It’s much like Google News, but next to the main headline there’s a little box that says “92 blogs over 15 hours” or words to that effect, telling you how many other blogs have written about the topic. When you click on that text, you get taken to a page with all of the various blog headlines and a cool little graph that shows the activity on a timeline.
More than one person is calling this a “Techmeme-killer” (because of course new things always have to kill old things or it’s just no fun). But is it? I don’t think so. For one thing, I like the fact that Techmeme.com is kind of dynamic — even if I don’t really understand how it operates. Blog posts go from being a sub-link of a sub-link to being a headline post, then disappear altogether; others form their own sub-group and then get reabsorbed, and some form headlines without any links at all, which makes some people mad. It may be a black box, but I kind of like that. Fred Wilson says that he likes it because it’s more personal than just an algorithm.
Obviously Google’s new blog search has only been around for a little while, but it certainly doesn’t feel that dynamic to me. All the posts are given the exact same prominence, and it’s not clear whether they are even ranked at all. The chart with the timeline is a nice touch — a kind of Google Trends sort of thing, showing you whether a topic is ramping up or not, which will be good for the bandwagon-jumpers — but it would be even better if it showed you at exactly which point on the timeline each of the sub-headlines appears. I will definitely keep checking the site out, in the same way I try to check multiple sources of news of any kind.
Note: Techmeme founder Gabe Rivera says he doesn’t think that the term meme-tracker defines any kind of meaningful category of products, and that the word is “incredibly lame.” Hard to argue. And as Alex Chitu at Google Operating System notes, there are some holes left for Google to fill. Ethan Kaplan of blackrimglasses seems to like it though, and Matt Cutts has a rundown on some of the differences between the two.