John Jordan writes:
The world of data has entered a notably rich period of evolution. Search technologists at a variety of startups and deep-pocketed incumbents are engaged in an arms race, with new tools and capabilities appearing almost weekly. (Examples include A9’s Open Search, Ziggs, Picasa, Browster, Oodle, and EVDB.) RSS is expanding beyond news and blog feeds. Tagging and other bottom-up classification methods, including wikis, are growing at a phenomenal rate.
Why do these matter? Taken in the aggregate, they reflect a new set of assumptions about people and what they do with information. Depending on how things unfold, we might get much closer to wide usability than the hard-coded obtuseness of a relational database or enterprise application typically allows. Rather than having to know some arbitrarily defined, precise syntax to get from A to B, for example, people can both name and define something themselves and then trust new search and display techniques to learn what they need to know.
All in all, it’s hard to project where the co-evolution of wikis, tags, XML, search, and databases will lead. Google has shown that relational databases don’t scale infinitely, but indexing and search just might. In the other corner of the heavyweight boxing ring, Yahoo’s purchase of Flickr gives it access to new technologies and not accidentally a way of looking at the world that will certainly bear fruits in the future. On the client side, new technologies in cell phones have the potential to add location to the context equation, with huge implications for both privacy and relevance. Having end-user appliances that are simultaneously a sensor (whether fixed, like the A9 search history, or mobile) and an input/output device changes the game still further.