Suppose you want information on the city of Seattle. In Google, if you type in “Seattle,” you get a long list of Web links, starting with the city’s official Web site. At the top are links to maps of Seattle, and to news about Seattle.
Yahoo and MSN are worse, putting real-estate ads on top of their Web results. Ask Jeeves gives you a map and some local links, followed by a zillion ads. But other than the Ask Jeeves map, none gives you direct information. You must click on further links to learn anything.
The same search in Answers.com is radically different. You see a well-formatted page that includes a definition from the American Heritage dictionary. That is followed by a longer, but still compact, article on Seattle from the Columbia Encyclopedia. And that is followed by sections on current weather, and the local time. Then, there is a very long article on Seattle, with detailed maps, from the public, open-source Wikipedia encyclopedia.
To avoid a lot of scrolling, Answers.com provides a box at the upper left that allows you to quickly jump to each portion of the results page — Dictionary, Encyclopedia, etc. You can also click once to get a Google Web search on Seattle. It also offers links to relevant blogs on a topic, to image searches and other resources.
… Answers.com is also a start toward a new search paradigm where the object is to provide real instant information, not just links to pages where that information may, or may not, be found. I urge you to try it.
Ramesh Jain adds:
As the sophistication of users improves, so should that of search engines. So far most of the improvements have been in providing better quality of sources. Also since search engines did such a terrible job in finding sources, they had to cover that by still providing millions of sources but trying to rank them such that top sources were relevant. And this worked initially, but people are now complaining.
Technology has to keep up with the expectations of its users. In case of search, because the problem was so serious for users that initially they were happy to see any solution. But now they are getting used to that level and asking for more. The expectation of users is not at all unreasonable.
The idea of providing answers not the sources of potential answers is going to become increasingly popular. And this will require changing nature of search results in many way. In fact, one interesting thing is that the search may no longer really be search as it is commonly known now it will be solutions. One can see some of that already in vertical searches where people expert much more precise answers rather than vague sources of potential answers. When I go to search for a home on real state sites or search for flight, I expect precise answers. Same is going to be expected from general searches. This starts changing the nature of search it starts becoming prospecting. In prospecting we will expect the system to go and study potential sources, do processing of those and come back to us with more precise answers if not exact answers.