Search Customisation

Knowledge@Wharton has an article on a talk by Jeff Weiner, senior vice president for search and marketplace at Yahoo!:

Weiner’s company and its rival, Google, are the web’s gatekeepers: They not only monitor a huge swath of Internet traffic but to some extent control it. Their decisions about search design and ad placement determine what users see when they search. That gives Weiner a vantage point from which to observe the media’s evolution. He said that bloggers and their proponents have misconstrued the direction of the media’s post-web changes. The future, he predicted, won’t belong to either mass or micro players, but rather to consumers who will increasingly tailor their information gathering to their needs and tastes. “The future is going to be ‘my media,'” he said.

An example is the personalized home pages that people already are building via services such as My Yahoo! On these pages, users can link to their favorite blogs and favorite newspapers. “‘My media’ enables people to consume media on their own terms,” Weiner explained.

The move toward more personal media isn’t limited to the web, he said. Its musical analog is the digital music player — iPods are the most prominent example — which lets users not only download songs but also mix and store them in varied ways. The TV versions are TiVo’s digital video recorders and cable’s on-demand video services. “Talk to people who have TiVo, and they will tell you that it absolutely changed their lives,” Weiner noted. “TiVo users have an evangelical zeal.”

Internet search engines, for their part, are also moving toward greater personalization, he said. Searches are increasingly effective — often delivering users’ desired results on the first try — because search companies have continued to refine their search software, and because users have become savvier. “Today, tens of millions of searches are unique queries,” Weiner pointed out. “They are only performed once.” That suggests that users aren’t just typing in a common word and hoping for pay dirt. Instead, they are devising complex queries to narrow their results.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.