The Formation of a Standard Reference

By Deane Barker on June 12, 2005

More and more, Wikipedia articles are creeping up the search results when you search for famous names. I tested this theory a bit tonight, and here’s what I found when searching for nothing but the first and last name of someone famous:

With entertainment personalities, the Internet Movie Database seems to be in the same position. Here’s how that site faired on these searches:

(What’s interesting to note is that this phenomenon doesn’t seem to extend beyond people right now. I searched for the simple names of landmarks and events without the same success. It seemed that related business enterprises were more prevalent there, thus crufting up the search results with people trying to sell stuff.)

What I think this points to is the emergence of “super sites” — Web sites so popular and well-cited that they transcend “standard” search results and become the expected location for information about that person.

In the future, these sites be at the top so often that they’ll essentially jump out of the natural search results and be a “meta result,” with the “real” results starting below them. Or will a search engine elevate them to “offical meta result” at some point, and deliberately set them apart at the top of the results pages?

With our allegiance to sites like Wikipedia and the IMDb, are we unwittingly creating a “standard reference”? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

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