Is There Any Innovation Left in Search?

Is there any innovation left in search? After all, it has been around since well before the web arrived. Indeed, there is much left to learn, as three speakers discussed in one of the closing conference sessions. New Web2.0 technologies are overturning traditional search as we have known it and are forcing a complete re-thinking of the search process.
Jayne Dutra, Information Architect at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), observed that search is no longer a box in the corner of a web page, and crawlers do not meet the needs of today’s businesses. Instead, relationships and context have gained a new importance, and new technologies present new opportunities. Data and information objects now occur in many formats (audio, video, image, etc.), and search must be redesigned to deal with them. Generating metadata must become part of the work process and be transparent to the user.
Socialization and increased interactions between people and content mean that content has assumed a new importance, and relationships define the context. Some features and implications of the new search environment will be:
  • Social networking will be enabled across teams,
  • Information discovery will occur without the necessity of knowing an exact search term (or keyword), and
  • Flexible graphics and interfaces tailored for the iPod generation will be available. 
Dutra was followed by Nicolas Bombourg, sales manager for Reportlinker, who echoed and expanded upon many of her points. (Click here to read Bombourg’s blog.) He noted that general search engines are reaching their limit because the web is becoming more complex. For some content (audio, video, images, etc.) tagging is the only way to describe it. And because of the “deep web”, much content is unavailable to search engines. Bombourg predicted that new vertical search engines concentrating on a single subject area will become widespread by the time web 3.0 becomes available. They will have much better search features than today’s generalized search engines. In fact, search engines may become “recommendation engines”, in which the semantic web will become public and results will be presented in “clusters”. The question will be whether searchers long dependent on Google will be willing to change their habits and use these new engines.
Finally, Tom Reamy, Founder of the KAPS Group, suggested that many things regarded as new technologies are really things we have been doing for many years. For a good discussion of Web 2.0 themes, Reamy suggested reading “The Cult of the Amateur” by Andrew Keen. In his view, semantic structures and new types of content will lead to new and complex search interfaces that will provide functionality for better findability and support for software-generated metadata creation. 
This session showed that there is not only much room for innovation in search, but that search engine developers will be busy for a long time!
Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today

One Response to “Is There Any Innovation Left in Search?”

  1. Marydee Ojala December 7, 2007 at 3:54 am #

    A further note about Andrew Keen — he will be a keynote speaker at the Buying & Selling eContent ( conference in Scottsdale Arizona, April 13-15, 2008.