TECH TALK: The Future of Search: Web and Information Models

The five trends that we discussed — user-generated content, RSS, mobile phones, broadband and internationalisation have profound implications on the way we will access information going ahead. Even though we have come a long towards getting information on our fingertips, we are not really there yet. As we look at the fourth generation of search (after Yahoos directories, Altavistas crawlers, Googles PageRank), we need to rethink the model of the Web and the world around us. This will help us consider what next-generation search will be all about.

Rich Skrenta has kicked off the discussion in this direction with a recent post pointing out the difference between the Reference Web and the Incremental Web:

Google searches the reference Internet. Users come to google with a specific query, and search a vast corpus of largely static information. This is a very valuable and lucrative service to provide: it’s the Yellow Pages.
Blogs may look like regular HTML pages, but the key difference is that they’re organized chronologically. New posts appear at the top, so with a single browser reload you can say “Just show me what’s new.”

This seems like a trivial difference, but it drives an entirely different delivery, advertising and value chain. Rather than using HTML, the delivery protocol for web pages, there is a desire for a new, feed-centric protocol: RSS. To search chronologically-ordered content, a relevance-based search that destroys the chronology such as Google is inappropriate. Instead you want Feedster, PubSub or Technorati. Feed content may be better to read in a different sort of client, such as Newsgator, rather than a web browser.

There are 4-8 million active blogs now. At this size, you can still “know” the top bloggers, and find new posts worth reading by clicking around. But when the blogosphere grows 100X or 1000X, the current discovery model will break down. You’ll need algorithmic techniques like or a Findory to channel the most relevant material from the constant flood of new content.

After I read the post, this was my immediate reaction:

Rich is on the right track, but there are a few additional points which need thinking:

– We need to think beyond just text to multimedia for mass-market content creation and management. [Think Flickr.]
– In emerging markets like India, the mobile and not the computer will be at the heart of the Incremental Web.
– The interface has to go beyond the search box to more natural navigational interfaces. [Think Speech.]
– The published content is being amplified/tagged by the mass market — this also needs to be taken into account. [Think]
– A user’s “subscriptions” will be the filter through which the user will want to see the Incremental Web. [Think RSS+OPML.]

Next Week: The Future of Search (continued)

TECH TALK The Future of Search+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.