Opinion: Can MC Hammer Really Touch Google?

One of the strangest stories that emerged last week was MC Hammer's attempt to once more make himself relevant. This time he's not pimping Xbox Live singing games but a search engine he says is intended to take on Google.

I originally wasn't going to touch this.

How did that get there? Anyway, this was one of those stories I let get away, largely because I figured that it was all hype and little in the way of real news. While things aren't as they were in the late 1990s, it's still the case that there are scores of Silicon Valley startups that never get more than a passing mention, and in the case of WireDoo — no, really, it's apparently called WireDoo — it seems like hiring MC Hammer as the front man is nothing more than a stunt; quite possibly one that in previous years would have been designed to pump up the share price before dumping the company entirely.

But surely this is insanity. I mean, you can't really take on Google, can you, even if you are MC Hammer? He hasn't got a prayer.

Oh, that's right — he does. It's not terribly clear from the stories that have emerged whether Hammer is legitimately a direct investor in the Wiredoo project.

He may just be the celebrity spokesperson; he's just said that it's a project he's been "working on". Whatever that means. If you're particularly keen, you can sign up for the beta of WireDoo, although quite why, except for giggles, escapes me.

But can he succeed? Hasn't Google got the market sewn up, with Microsoft running second place?

Anything's possible. Wiredoo's pitch is "deep search" or "relational" search, which, so Hammer claims, will give you the relationships between search terms rather than just the keywords that it sparks up. I'll let MC explain it to you.

It's an interesting idea, if it works. Presumably, if you entered Charles Addams as a search term into Wiredoo, rather than getting his Wikipedia page, you'd get the related media, such as . . . well . . . this.

Although what happens if you ask a more general question remains to be seen.

Getting away from the MC Hammer back catalogue for a second, while WireDoo seems like just another search engine, there's no particular reason why it couldn't succeed. Stranger things have happened; I can well recall the time before Google, when sites like Yahoo! or AltaVista were the search destinations of choice. Heck, I can even recall Asking Jeeves.

Perhaps I shouldn't admit that, but anyway, the point remains that there's certainly space online for a better product to supplant an existing behemoth. Just look at what happened to MySpace — or for that matter Ask Jeeves.

It's not even the case that you'd necessarily have to take Google's entire lunch money away. Looking at Google's financial results shows that, as an example, Google's revenues for 2010 were a tasty $US29 billion. Even if, for the sake of argument, WireDoo only got one half of one percent of Google's total revenue, that's still a cool $US180 million dollars. Take off Hammer's fee, and you'd still have about $US180 million to play with. I could certainly live with that kind of income, if anyone's feeling generous.

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