3.3.3Towards a full-fledged, mature third stream
Services, like those of Amazon, have much to offer to customers as well as suppliers but they leave one important issue untackled: how do people find them? If brokering were to stop at this level, the current problems with search engines (as discussed earlier on) would still be around.
So, to come to a full-fledged third stream (see 3.3.1) in the information market, higher level services will be needed. These services will provide a universal access or entry-way to brokering services like the one we just described.
It would seem the most practical and ideal, when a single, central brokering service would emerge, which would serve as an umbrella for all other brokering services. Both the information pull as well as information push parties would then have one single entry point they could turn to for their information needs. Apart from the fact that this would soon lead to a colossal service, which would be very hard to maintain on the Net, the free-market spirit of the current Internet just makes a scenario like this hard to believe. Therefore a situation with numerous (mega) brokering services and intermediaries operating side-by-side seems much more likely and closer to the real world. Not only that, but it will also keep the levels of competition high, which will most likely result in better and more diverse services being offered. Everyone will be able to chose the broker that best suits his or their needs and means. Some will opt for free services, e.g. those of non-profit organisations, libraries, or add-sponsored services. Others may have a need for high-quality, reliable and/or speedy services, and are perfectly willing to pay for such services.
Restricting itself to working with meta-information about the two other streams, helps the third stream to tackle a search engine's problem of how to maintain its information base, i.e. how to keep it up-to-date.1 But what about a well-known other problem search engines are suffering from, being the lack of co-ordination and co-operation? The wisest thing for a broker to do, would therefore seem to adopt a super market-like strategy, and to try to make deals with a lot of other parties, which could be other (more specific) brokers, specific information sources, thesaurus like services (to improve query results), etcetera. By doing so, just like a super market, they can cater for the broadest possible audience, and they can also bargain (bulk) discounts with all sorts of sources and services 2, which gives them a competitive edge over others. Parties from both information push and information pull streams can then decide for themselves whether some information need is best solved by a specialised service (i.e. a specific 'shop') or by a larger, more general one (i.e. a 'super market').
1= Xu and Callen have written an interesting paper, "Effective Retrieval with Distributed Collections", which evaluates the retrieval effectiveness of distributed information retrieval systems in realistic environments. Among other things, the paper outlines a way in which current search engines could tackle their update problem, i.e. by switching from one, central database of sites to a distributed collection.
2= Or they can use a mechanism like superdistribution (see section 3.5.4) to gain extra revenue and/or reduce costs.
3= For a more in-depth discussion of this topic, see: Foss, J., "Intermediation and Information Brokerage". New Century Park, Coventry, United Kingdom, March 26th, 1998.