TECH TALK: The Future of Search: The Four-Web Model

The Reference Web is something we are all familiar with. It is the Web that is available to us via two primary mechanisms: by web address (URL of the site), and via search engines (after crawling and processing). Increasingly, it is more of the latter than the former. Search Engines have become the gateway to the Reference Web to such an extent that if something is not in there, then we dont think it exists! Much of this Web is based on documents that have been created and put on the Internet over the years. The size of this Web is expanding continuously witness Googles efforts to bring libraries with millions of books online, and Amazons online photo-enriched yellow pages.

Next comes the Incremental Web. This Web is the world of Now. On the one hand, it comprises the flow of news stories and features as published by the mainstream media. On the other hand, there is the continuum of posts from the long tail of bloggers initially, only text, but now enriched with photos, audio and video. In addition, there is a steady stream of tags by people which serves to provide metadata to existing and fresh content. The Incremental Web is being updated in real-time by professionals and amateurs from across the world. Some of this updated content is viewed by millions, while others by a handful from the social network of the person publishing it. RSS subscriptions make it possible to personalise the Incremental Web.

The Archived Web falls in between the Reference and Incremental Webs. In fact, it is an extension of the Incremental Web of a single user stored in a database for future reference. Another way to view this Archived Web is as the Reference Web seen through the lens of a users subscriptions. This Web goes beyond just the desktop it is not necessarily the content created by a user, but the content that the user has decided to attend to via the act of adding a subscription to the RSS feed. Attention may be given now through a portal-like interface (My Incremental Web) or on-demand through a search-like interface (My Archived Web).

The Community Web is different from the other three Webs in the sense that it does not act on information that exists in cyberspace. Rather, it interfaces with the real-world and builds on a users social network. It taps into the other memory of friends and family the memory which is their brain! For the first time, we have devices which can help us tap into peoples memories via the people themselves. Imagine using our mobile phones as front-ends to tap the information present in our social network not necessarily as published information, but those tidbits which we continuously gather and file away in some part of our brain. The Community Web could, in theory, have provided the answer to Ramesh Jains Agre ka petha query. Thus, the Community Web uses people as sensors into the real world.

The Search game played so far has only focused on the Reference Web. My Incremental, Archived and Community Webs have yet to be tapped effectively. And therein lies the opportunity to build the next-generation search engines.

Tomorrow: Attention

TECH TALK The Future of Search+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.