How search is changing

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While Microsoft is doing all it can to keep up with Google in search, it appears that search as we’ve grown to know and accept is changing–quickly. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not such a good idea to try to outsmart Google in search, but rather to look down the road and try to implement something even better or more relevant. A better PageRank is not the answer. A better rendering is not the key. No, a better solution may be one that fits some newer take on the problem altogether.

Think about it. Look at the impact Twitter is having on real-time searching. If some bit of breaking news is happening, do we turn to news.google.com? No, the first place to look is search.twitter.com. That’s where we’re likely to read about an earthquake or conference or new product. Classic search engines just can’t keep up.

But this isn’t the only place that search is under attack. Look at what Wolfram Research is doing with its computation engine. Wolfram’s Alpha site is set to go live this Saturday and by the previews we’ve seen the “search” engine is quite likely to have people rethinking what it means to find information online.

Wolfram Alpha is not just about searching text in webpages. It leverages databases and analytical algorithms. Yes, Wolfram Alpha is about going beyond the PageRank thinking up to this point.

The question is how far will it take us? This past week Google even stepped into the fray and released Lab versions of structured data searches with its Google Squared. Very interesting approach it looks like.

Will these new search approaches be the final answer to search? I don’t think so. I think we’ve got lots more to do.

For my Masters project oh so long ago, for instance, I worked on Indoor Visual Searching. What Visual Searching means exactly is not quite as important as appreciating the fact that it’s about searching over time–or searching with a goal in mind. The point is that lots of searches are goal oriented this way or that during the process of performing a search step it may impact what you search for next. This pattern is critical to where I see search going in the years to come. Search engines may become quite good at not only giving us access to answers, they may give us plans to follow.

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Look at the impact Twitter is having on real-time searching. If some bit of breaking news is happening, do we turn to news.google.com? No, the first place to look is search.twitter.com.

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