Is Search Dead, or is it Dying?

27 10 2007

Bill Ryan, on the October 18, 2007 podcast of Ken Rutkowski’s always informative KenRadio, makes the following comment, which is quite fascinating in its implications:

“We’re moving from a world of search to a world of relevant discovery.”

Think about it for a minute. Google and a host of other search engines do a reasonably good job of searching on one or more search terms (by the way, one new search engine that I like an awful lot is Twerq). Type in “Avid” and “P2” and you get a whole bunch of hits about how Avid is working at intergrating this new tapeless workflow into their Media Composer software. Mixed among them are results that are nothing more than ads or stories that just mentioned both search terms in passing. You can also get hits for people who are really avid about the film P2. That’s not really very helpful.

What Ryan is alluding to, if I’m not mistaken, is trying to make search results truly responsive to what we need, rather than what we type. If you’re writing an email to a friend and you’re talking about using the HVX500 camera in your last shoot, wouldn’t it be great if a search engine (when triggered) could see that you’ve been writing about a camera that uses P2 cards and that you’ve used the words “rain” “damage” and “buy” in the surrounding text and figure out that you want to search for either insurance policies or replacement parts or rental locations (depending on what the other words in the email were).

Wouldn’t it be great if you could type “What is the cheapest theater running Gone Baby Gone in Hollywood?” into a search engine and have it realize that the words Gone Baby Gone are a book or movie title and since you typed the word “theater” that you must be referring to a movie. And then look for prices of movie theatre tickets in Hollywood and cross reference that with theatres playing Gone Baby Gone at the time you ask for the information? And then present you with a list of theaters and the screening times on that day.

Notice what intelligence has gone into that chain of thought. It recognizes the word “cheapest” and knows that you don’t want to search for every instance of the word “cheapest” (since that would pull up a lot of ads), but it searches on price instead. It knows that, if you want to know a price, then you must be interested in purchasing a ticket and so it provides additional information that would be helpful to you in making that decision — location, show times, surrounding services, et al.

That’s not artificial intelligence. That’s full-blown intelligence. And it will make search much more fruitful.

Ken Rutkowski always talks about moving from Search to Find. Ryan challenged him on this statement, saying it was about finding sites that give you want you want to find. I’d go a step further and say that it is more than finding sites that are relevant, it’s about finding information that you need. The company that figures out how to do that is going to clean up and help to define just what Web 3.0 really is all about.

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2 responses

27 10 2007
Charles Knight

“The company that figures out how to do that is going to clean up and help to define just what Web 3.0 really is all about.”

With all undue humilty, we are closing in on that fast. Of course we have over 1,000 alternative search engines on our side!

Charles Knight, editor
A Read/WriteWeb network blog

27 10 2007

This isn’t exactly what I’m referring to Charles. From what I can see on your site you’ve got a compendium of different search engines from across the Web. But it isn’t really an intelligent search agent itself, which can observe what a user is thinking and predict what they want to know. Remember, it’s about relevant discovery, according to Bill Ryan, not massive searching.

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