Autonomy Acquires Interwoven: Long Term Implications for Search

I’ve been stewing about Autonomy acquiring Interwoven for a week now. Full disclosure: neither company briefed me (both ignored my emails), so I am not saddled with any pesky facts in forming my opinion. And my opinion is that this inevitable merger is emblematic of several trends, none of which are good long term for companies needing excellent cross-enterprise search technology.

How on earth did search companies become so powerful? It is bizarre if you think about it. Companies have been buying applications and databases for decades to collect information. Each has a search tool to help you find what you need from within that application. Most of these search tools don’t work really well, and few allow you to search beyond the boundaries of the individual application.

Enter the search giants. “We don’t care where your content is, we’ll index and search it.” Whee! Why bother migrating to a single content management system (CMS) or knowledgebase when you can create and store content ANYWHERE and easily retrieve it using the magical search tool??!! If the vicious cycle ended there, we’d all be OK. But as vicious cycles do, this one continues.

Companies buy these magical search platforms, and it is a big step forward for users. But the search engines really don’t do all that great with legacy content. The search tool is amazing, however, when you search more structured content that has lots of metadata. “So,” thinks the CEO of the search vendor, “our search results are even better when I can have a say in how content is indexed, stored and attributed. I’ll buy a content management vendor I can fine tune for my search engine and results will be EVEN BETTER!!!”

As a result, the search vendor invests less in general purpose searching and more in fine tuning the results for customers using their proprietary search tools on their proprietary content store. What’s the result? You can search one store of content extremely well, but thanks to technology evolution, content is always being created in new repositories using new formats, and your existing search and CMS platform don’t do very well on the new content.

Now we are back where we started. Siloed data with a search tool that only performs well on itself, and increasing amounts of new content you can’t easily search. You don’t need to be psychic to predict where this will lead. The next Google will come out with “Search 3.0” and the cycle will start all over again.

Five years from now, will Interwoven’s content structure be so convoluted that you have to use Autonomy or you can’t find anything? Will Autonomy not be able to index and search content from a new Web 3.0 (whatever that is, likely a virtual content world) application because they want to force you to use Interwoven’s CMS? Yes, that is possible.

Autonomy is also the search engine OEM’d by a few knowledgebase vendors. With service convergence beginning to blur the lines between content management and knowledgebases, I wonder how long Autonomy will continue these OEM relationships?

There you have it, my uninformed opinion. Another example of the endless cycle from ‘best of breed’ to ‘enterprise suite’ and back to ‘best of breed’ again. Thanks for reading!

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One Comment on “Autonomy Acquires Interwoven: Long Term Implications for Search”

  1. Kevin Ryerson Says:

    My sentiments exactly. It is one thing for a database or apps company to buy a search engine, but when search engines start buying CMS firms something is wrong.

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