TECH TALK: The Future of Search: Recent Developments

I had originally intended to complete this series on Search at the end of last weeks column. But a number of recent developments has prompted me to continue the discussion on the future of search. The past week has seen Barry Dillers InterActive Corp acquire AskJeeves for $1.85 billion, photo-blog Flickr being bought by Yahoo, three media companies took up a majority stake in, and HP bought Snapfish. Just a short while ago, AskJeeves had purchased Bloglines. The consolidation in the content and search space has begun.

Ramesh Jain had this to say: The most lucrative thing is the increasing volume of advertisements on search engines. It is expected that this will keep increasing as more and more people go to search engines for getting information and as search engines become part of TV (or Video) space..Photos are becoming a mainstream business. In cyberspace so far, text was the dominant force. I see that slowly photos, audio, and video are going to challenge the total dominance of text. John Battelle added that search and television are going to merge. wondered if tagging (as propagated by sites like Flickr and could upstage search in the future:

Given the billions of files available on the Web, tagging has generally been considered unworkable. Flickr has gotten around the problem by recruiting thousands of people to participate for free. Its loose social framework offers a community that lets people discover, quite serendipitously, interesting photos in the collections of strangers. Without a central body of editors controlling the index, the network also can reveal rare insight into cultural zeitgeists from the people using it.

Finding information in the vast and expanding sea of data online is one of the biggest problems to crack. Creating metadata, or tags, for describing files has long been thought of as a solution for hunting down a range of files on the Web, PCs and intranets, but it has remained an elusive goal. That could explain why tapping Web users’ desire to create addictive services or communities is an attractive solution.

Peter Merholz, a founder at Adaptive Path, a user-experience company, said the happy byproduct of Flickr and other “folksonomies” is that there’s this global categorization of information. “Flickr is valuable because its creators understood the opportunities on the Web in connecting people. It’s the same way eBay is all about leveraging the power of the network,” Merholz said.

Future applications for free tagging could include news, blogs, Web and enterprise search. “The future of folksnomies involves meshing these user-generated categorizations with more standardized categorizations, such as the Library of Congress or the Getty Thesaurus of place names, so you could start to connect data to allow more of these associations to be made,” Merholz said.

Innovation in and around the search space is happening rapidly. More and more relevant information can now be surfaced not just via results from search engines, but through the action of bloggers and taggers. The discussion around attention, events, subscriptions, tags, discovery and interfaces leading to the information dashboards is not complete. Information Dashboards are just the tip of the information iceberg. What happens when all these information dashboards start interacting with each other? But we are getting ahead of the story here.

Tomorrow: The Messy Web

TECH TALK The Future of Search+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.