Earlier today I saw a link to Jakob Nielsen’s latest alert box entitled Search Engines as Leeches on the Web. I had assumed it to be focused on the aggregation techniques that modern search engines, Google in particular, seem to be focusing on. As it turned out the alertbox article was focusing more on the paid ranking techniques and their impact on your bottom line/site development.

However my initial thought process had been kick-started and pointed towards thoughts I’d recently had.

A couple of weeks ago I was having a discussion over a few drinks about the web in general and it turned towards these aggregation search engine techniques, you know you’re a web geek when you start talk about this kind of thing when out for a drink.

I’ve noticed these new aggregation features POP up within Google over the last few months; some by accident, like typing a film name and discovering the cinema release information and others from articles and the like. As an internet user I’m starting to find that I’m using these data aggregation results more and more and visiting the content source sites less than I would have previously, I’ve got to admit they’re damn handy. However as a web developer I also understand that without traffic, revenue aside, my will to create and maintain content would quickly wain.

My feeling is if search engines try and become a one-stop shop for everything you need, by aggregating and presenting third party content, where does this leave the content sources. If the content sources have less traffic (and probably conversely less revenue) will they continue to thrive and produce regular valuable content, if not what will happen to the aggregators themselves.

It’s just a little observation and as a very heavy internet user I still have lots of sites which I visit, but I do feel that in these key areas of data with everyday interest; maps, directions, cinema listings/reviews, books, local amenities etc. that the average user will slowly stop visiting the source sites and become more dependent on the aggregators. I can’t help but feel that will lead some loss of the rich variation of source content.

I’m just generally sounding off and I’d love to hear any of your thoughts on this issue.