The future of search

In an interview the other day I was asked about the future of search. Biased working on multilingual search at the moment, I decided to opt for the answer of “instant translated search results”, e.g. you type in a search term in English and they offer you results in different languages that are instantly translated. Saw this instant translation tool at Google Wave and was very impressed.

But what has happened lately in the search world? We are all familiar with Universal Search or Blended Search where the search engines blend results from blogs, pictures, news etc. Good example are politicians, e.g. Barack Obama. I spoke about that at SES Hamburg in 2008.

barack obama

If you are logged in with your “Google Account” your personal preferences will be taken into consideration, and dependent where on the globe you are and which index you access, you get different results. The one above is for UK only. So is personal search, the search results tailored to your preferences, the future? If so, the Internet would become a creation around your preferences rather than you changing the Internet around you. Or it gives you enough possibilities to personalise your web too and only the search results and of course the advertisement will be tailored to your life. The Digital Britain report touches on behavioural targeting and suggest it will be playing a big role in the future of online advertising.

What about Bing, did MSN’s new search engine changed anything? Google published a video pointing out that they are a “decision engine” too.

Google, according to Mashable, gets a bit scared and takes Bing quite serious. Search Engine Land comments on the “threat” too.

You remember the launch of Cuil last year. They didn’t take any market share off Google. However, if you think about it, then Bing might not want to take market share of Google (as yet) but position itself with a more relevant search engine than the msn.live to overtake Yahoo! and then take on Google in the long run. The relevancy is important and the way results are shown. Again, if that is combined with personalised search, Bing could become a winner and take on Google – but I suggest we don’t really see any shift towards Bing for another year or so. But, with launching Bing, Microsoft did go back to the battle field and the more competition there is for search engines, the better it is for our industry.

Anyhow, see Bing’s advertisement here and keep an eye out on whether they will take on Google or not.

Wolfram Alpha didn’t make the news as much and it is a search engine focusing on results and facts. If you search for “Barack Obama” you get his life facts. If you click on “search the web” you end up at Google. So this reminds me more of a Wikipedia search. However, clearly an interesting step in the world of search and how we might change our way of using search engines in the future.

Barack Obama WA

What is left to look at if we need to decide on the future of search? Maybe Twitter. I wrote about it a lot already, so the instant search which twitter offers and now shows up in Google results too, is definitely something to watch. Local search and search depending on your position, e.g. mobile GPS location, could be very interesting as well. Data protection might be against it, but definitely an area you want to keep an eye on.

Leaves us with semantic search? The user types in a few words and the search engine interprets what it means. Maybe the future will combine this with some personalised information again too? ClickZ had an interesting example in their article about a NY Sandwich: “Tell any New Yorker you had a sandwich made with rye bread, corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing but can’t remember what it’s called. He’ll tell you it’s a Reuben. But just throwing a few ingredients into a search engine may not get you such a quick or even correct response.” That means you might find recipes or anything you cannot remember the name off by putting in the “ingredients” or words you know about the “thing” you are looking for and out comes the answer. Very interesting and the Semantic Technology Conference is definitely a place to go over the next few years.

By the way, I found a great deli bar in NY whilst searching for the above 😉

So, how do we best summarise the future of search?

The semantic search still seems to be in its infancy. However, the personalised search combined with localised search could be a winner, data protection allowing of course. And if Bing will take on Google or if we will find more vertical search engines rather than blended search results in Google and Bing shall be seen. If Yahoo! stands a chance and if Yahoo! and Bing can take on Google shall be seen also. My suggestion is that we won’t see much of a shift towards alternatives away from Google for a while, however we should not anticipate that search engines like Bing will take on Google in the long run, combining some or all of the technologies above. However, Google won’t sit still either, so the future is wide open.

And, instant translation, will get the world closer together – if it is relevant to the results shall be seen 😉