Prague, Czech Republic: Apache Lucene Eurocon — for a news junkie like me, the news announced by The Guardian of the UK here at Europe’s inaugural open source search developer conference is an important inflection point.
Today, a lot of talk about the internet and journalism is either macabre or snide with a hint of fear. With news organizations slashing their reporting staff, there’s some genuine worry that not only will news articles be reduced to 140 characters each, but that the context and insight will degrade to one notch above gossip. Then there’s the snide observation that much of that comes from out-of-work journalists who don’t get it. (Dude, doh! You’ve been disintermediated by Google.) And then, fear: paywalls are coming, and net neutrality will die.
Now, Google’s not immune to bad press. They recently talked to James Fallows of the Atlantic, (the 150 year-old-mainstream media platform): in an article on How to Save the News, the Google guys tell him that they are pro-journalism: without great content, who will want search? (For the record, Fallows doesn’t buy their arguments any more than those of journalists who regard Google with unbridled suspicion). Stick your hand out next to the searchbox en route to someone else’s content and sell ’em adverts: old media in all its glory, other than that Google keeps all the money.
This is where The Guardian’s News and Media’s Content API built with Solr is such an important innovation. The Guardian has what Google doesn’t: great, original content. People want it (they touch 3.6% of the global uniques on the Internet). But most important, they are exposing the content to people who want to take it, add value to it and deliver it. Search makes content valuable, but not just with a search box: it’s an enabling open application layer that gives developers tools to build differentiated services.
To put not too fine a point on it: The Guardian Open Platform disintermediates Google’s pay-per-click-to-see-news model. Guardian developers innovate using open source Lucene/Solr to match users with data for competitive advantage; application developers build new apps with the Guardian API. Open delivers the innovation, Lucid delivers the foundation: in working with Guardian to tune their Solr implementation, we reduced index time from 15 hours on their prior Commercial search engine to less than an hour with Solr.
Schmidt, Brin, and Page lose sleep? Maybe, maybe not. Opening up APIs to turn content into new and different applications is just what Apple does with hundreds of thousands of iPhone/iPad/iPod apps. Content, again, is king.