Our recent “Brief History of Search” video ends with “What’s next?”. The below seeks to answer that question. Before I begin though, here’s the video again.
A Brief History of Search
A Brief Future of Search
Personalised search (the idea of each of us seeing different results for the same query) has begun but has to be in it’s very early stages. The key determiners of rank are likely to be your search history, your location, your general web use and of course the so called “social signals” (discussed below).
The power of Google maps is increasing all the time and whilst the quality of the current algorithms are questionable we can expect this to change in the not-too distant future. Sensible marketing budgets are being spent in this area.
The merging of local, social and personalisation is an area to watch. (“SoLo” between you and me)
Obvious but added to the list for completeness. It’s still not as exciting as it should be, perhaps explained by apps stealing the “traditional” mobile search volume
So sexy it hurts. Yes really. This video explains it nicely.
Google Social Search is live in the US. We’re still waiting in the UK.
Facebook’s vision of a Friends focused web is undoubtedly going to form a major part of search. I expect Facebook to become a major player in search (recent announcements very much point in that direction), however I do feel that there is a danger of over hyping. Friend networks can tell us a lot, but not everything. Human’s are simply too complex for that.
Specific Search Engines
Little bits of Google’s market will get eaten away by specialists in their field. Whilst we can expect Google to produce more and more “vertical” specific products (e.g. the Mortgage Comparison Product) it has a mountain to climb to beat dedicated search engines such as the Edinburgh born and bred Skyscanner.
Closely related is the proliferation in the use of Applications (as being driven by Apple and the iPhone) for niche searching. Instead of using Google search on the iPhone a real ale enthusiast may “search” for places to drink beer using a find-beer-drinking-place type application.
No discussion of search is complete without reference to the need to fight spam. As alluded to in the video less trust is being placed on links. As the amount of data the search engines have about our browsing habits increase, we can expect them to get better at putting this information to use. Indeed they are already.
We are seeing Google making great strides in understanding previously unindexible content. Google Goggles shows how good they are getting at being able to understand images (as well as showing us nicely what they are still struggling with) and YouTube’s auto transcription gives a good indication of Google’s ability to index audio. Much progress is also being made in understanding dynamic content.