I remarked a couple of days ago on Dave Winer’s observation that the enormous popularity of Wikipedia may represent a new kind of centralization of information. An analysis of the recently disclosed AOL search data, by SEO Blackhat, adds a further gloss to this phenomenon. According to the analysis, the #1 ranked search result garners, on average, 42.1% of all clickthroughs. The clickthrough rate falls off precipitously from there, with the #2 result representing 11.9% percent of clickthroughs. If current trends continue, Wikipedia will likely come to occupy the top spot for a very wide range of topics – in fact, it already holds the top spot for many common terms.
Combine the growing dominance of web searches over the way people find information with the growing dominance of Wikipedia over search results, and you do seem to have the makings for an unprecedented dominance of a single information source. Could it be that, counter to our expectations, the natural dynamic of the web will lead to less diversity in information sources rather than more?
And could it be that Wikipedia will end up being Google’s most formidable competitor? After all, if Google simply points you to Wikipedia, why bother with the middleman?
UPDATE: Patrick Ross goes further down the long tail of topics and finds that Wikipedia’s dominance over Google results only gets stronger.