File Under: Web Basics

Future of Search Won’t Be Incremental

A cyborg searches GoogleVoice input? Direct brain link? What does the future of search hold? If it’s to be created by someone other than Google, it sure won’t be much like today’s search. The future of search is unlikely to be incremental. It will be a radical shift from what we’re used to.

Miguel Carrasco oulined how Microsoft can beat Google using the social graph. Carrasco says that by combining what Live Search knows about our recent activity on social networks, it can provide better results. The examples show a way that search needs to improve: context.

The argument goes that armed with knowledge of our recent activity, a search engine can provide more appropriate results for our current frame of reference. If I’ve been planning a trip to Miami, to borrow Carrasco’s example, a search for night clubs should not return generic results. I should see Miami night clubs, especially those recommended by my friends.

It’s a nice vision, but it’s not likely to be enough for Live Search, or any search player, to take over Google. The approach, while important to the future of search, is too incremental. It has the vestiges of today’s search technology.

Personalization isn’t only coming, it’s here. Sign in to your Google account and you can activate it. Prepare to be underwhelmed. But even if it were as Carrasco describes, privacy concerns would stop personalized search from being adopted until the benefits were undeniable. It would take a radical shift.

When Google came along, it provided something that had never been seen before: good search results. Unlike all the other search engines, Google’s top few slots had what we were looking for. And it provided them fast.

It was a much easier time to make big changes. Someone has to make us realize that Google’s results are as antiquated as Yahoo and Excite were in the late 90s. A change in interface might be the most likely innovation. A search engine that takes voice input, understands what you say, and provides clear results still feels far away. That might be the sort of non-incremental change necessary.

A new version of Ask.com launched today. Among its features is the ability to reply to questions. Well, Ask has always been big on natural language searches. Though these results are better than ol’ Jeeves provided years ago, Google has also had answers to question searches for some time.

The most likely to create the way we search in the future is Google itself. It has the flexibility to create incremental advances and test them out on millions of people. The future of search is a problem they’re thinking about. I just hope they don’t find a way to put ads inside my cyborg eye.

[Photo by Linus Bohman]

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