TECH TALK: Rethinking Search: The Next Indian Search Engine (Part 2)

Continuing with the attributes of the Next Indian Search Engine (NISE):

Leverage RSS: For a glimpse into what Search can become, take a look at Feedster. Even as it focuses on narrow content vertical (RSS feeds), it also provides results as an RSS feed which can be subscribed in news aggregators. This means that the incrementally new content which matches the search strings can be delivered on an ongoing basis to users.

Websites Ping-back: It should be possible to websites which want to be included in the search results to alert NISE via a ping service whenever the site is updated. This alerts the search engine to get the new information.

User Customisation: Users should be able to personalise the way they do search via a mapping of the language available think of these as macros. This will also serve as a lock-in: the more familiar users get with the usage of NISE, the greater will be the barrier to switching.

So, the focus for NISE should be on building a search platform which can be customised and extended for users, and which thinks of not just the web browser but also the mobile devices as the primary target access method. Here is a 5-step action plan to operationalise NISE within 60-90 days:

1. Define the Search Language: The first word is the specifier of the domain (eg. films, PIN, people, company, train, flight, stock). The focus should be on identifying those domains which are likely to have the greatest user interest. The inspiration for this search language should come from the Unix shell. Asking users to specify what they are searching for by entering an extra word can actually be quite useful in narrowing the search and providing more specific results.

2. Source the Content: This may require partnerships with specific information providers. XML can be used to get the content from these sites if the search request is from a cellphone, or the result can be shown directly on the content providers website. For example, train 2345up can take the user to a page on the Indian Railways site which shows the status of the train, or can return text (microcontent) which shows the brief details of where the train is currently as compared to its schedule.

3. Solicit User Participation: NISE should be built for and by the users. So, getting feedback from them is very important. This can be done by leveraging collaboration ideas via Wikis and group blogs. Providing an OPML platform to leverage expertise that users have in identifying the best sites in verticals is another idea.

4. Leverage the Publish-Subscribe Web: It is very important to look at the future, emerging technologies. RSS is one of them. So, building RSS support from day one is very important. Getting sites (publishers) to provide information on site updates right at the start can be very helpful.

5. Launch and Improvise: NISE will be work in progress for sometime this is because it is going to evolve based on feedback. What is really being down in the early development is to build a platform that can be the foundation for future ideas.

NISE has the potential to make the Internet a utility in the lives of Indians even as the always-on access infrastructure and low-cost access devices become available. Indian users and Indian advertisers need NISE. Search is hot once again and it can be the trick that provides just the fillip the Indian information space needs.

TECH TALK Rethinking Search+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.