TECH TALK: Rethinking Search: What Other Say (Part 2)

Wired News: As wonderful as Internet search engines are, they have a pretty big flaw. They often deliver too much information, and a lot of it isn’t quite what we’re looking for. Who really bothers to read the dozens of pages of results that Google generates? Some intriguing technologies are getting better at bringing order to all that chaos, and could revolutionize how people mine the Internet for informationIf the Internet is a giant bookstore in which all the books are piled randomly on the floor, then Vivisimo is like a superfast librarian who can instantly arrange the titles on shelves in a way that makes senseConsider it a 21st century Dewey Decimal System designed to fight information overload. But unlike libraries, Vivisimo doesn’t use predefined categories. Its software determines them on the fly, depending on the search results. The filing is done through a combination of linguistic and statistical analysis, a method that even works with other languagesA similar process powers Grokker, a downloadable program that not only sorts search results into categories but also maps the results in a holistic way, showing each category as a colorful circle. Within each circle, subcategories appear as more circles that can be clicked on and zoomed in onAnother visualization possibility is offered by TouchGraph, which has a Google plug-in that shows links as an interconnected web, an appropriate image for the World Wide Web. [1] Search providers are increasingly trying to deliver a wealth of information onto results pages quickly, rather than having people sift through numerous Web sites to find answers. The more successfully they can do this, the greater the likelihood that people will return and develop a loyalty to that provider. And [2]: Yahoo CEO Terry Semel said that the company has only just begun with its grand plans to grow its Web search business, highlighting 2004 as a year when search will become omnipresent throughout its family of sites.

An Asian success story is the Chinese search engine, Baidu. Wrote Forbes: Beijing-based Baidu is China’s most popular search engine, Li said, averaging 30 million text searches a day in Chinese alone — a seventh of Google Inc’s 200 million in myriad languages Co-founder Robin Li declined to disclose revenue, but said the number was doubling or even tripling every yearAbout 80 percent of turnover last year came from sponsored links, where a client pays to have its name and Web link appear at the top of a results list when particular words are searched.

As we look ahead to what can be done in the search field, we would do well to remember these words by John Battelle: To profit from search, a company needs three elements, all of which Google already has. First, you must have high-quality algorithmic search, which attempts to match users perfectly with what they’re seeking. Second, you need a paid search network, which allows you to display links to paying advertisers alongside your editorial results. And third, you need your own distribution. In other words, you must own the site where the consumer makes his or her query and the results are displayed.

So, from Amazon to Baidu, Google to eBay, Microsoft to Yahoo, everyone seems to want in on the Search business. And yet, in India, search languishes. We havent even recognised its importance for boosting traffic, utility and revenue. India needs its own search engine focused on our local needs (the answer is not Googles India search). We have a (which my company, IndiaWorld, had launched in March 1997, and is now owned by Sify), but a lot more needs to be done. By combining ideas from what the worlds best are doing and some emerging technologies, it should be possible to rapidly build one.

Tomorrow: The Next Indian Search Engine

TECH TALK Rethinking Search+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.