Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Search seems to be broken...part 2

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 5, 2007

(Thank you all for your comments on this topic of search...)

 

The holy grail within search is to be able to serve up the right search result from one user click.

The "I'm Feeling Lucky" button next to the "Google Search" button constantly tests this ability. One day it might very well be the only button found there because the underlying search technologies will be hugely improved.

And researchers within the search engine communities will be widely recognized for their groundbreaking work--I'm certain that there will be future Nobel prize winners among them.

But improvements in search, through the development of better algorithms and IT architectures, will very likely be of lesser value over the next few years compared with what can be achieved developing "people-powered" search technologies.

It can be seen in sites such as Digg, which is a  better news aggregator using people-powered technologies, than machine-powered Google News, which states near the bottom of its page:

"The selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer program."

It is not just at Digg, there are "people-powered" search efforts all across the globe, involving tens of millions of people,  laboring every day to help improve the search experience. This is done by adding tags, site maps, headlines, etc, -- they are creating ever larger amounts of valuable search metadata about content.

And we are just at the beginning of this trend. It is a markedly new phase in the development of search, one best described as "people-powered and technology-enabled."  As opposed to mostly "machine-powered" through algorithms and servers.

What will be interesting to see if the people-powered component outweighs the value the machine-powered component of a search service. Because that would determine where the competitive edge is to be found. Is it in the algorithms or in the people?

And it begs questions such as: Is GOOG's lead in machine-powered search technologies large enough to keep it ahead of competitors harnessing people-powered search?

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