The future of search
Global search queries have increased year-on-year since the creation of the web. Between July 2008 and July 2009 the number of searched increased from 80.56 billion to 113.69 billion (comScore Worldwide Search Market Overview July 2009 vs. July 2008). For the vast majority of us the first thing we see each morning is Google, Bing or Yahoo. Google’s instantly recognisable screen is synonymous with the internet and has long reigned as the dominant search tool for businesses and consumers alike. Google searches for last year alone accounted for 67% of the global market- a staggering 76.68 billion individual requests. In this article, Paul Dawson, Experience Director and Head of Interactive Media at EMC Consulting, analyses the future of searching on the Internet.
By Paul Dawson
The sheer scale and potential of the internet makes predicting its future a difficult practice. However, it’s fair to say that increased broadband speed, better education of web users, and greater engagement from businesses; will mean that all of us will rely even more heavily on the internet and we will want our search results to be relevant and quick.
Google dominance – will it ever end?
Google is certainly still the dominant search provider, its share outshines competitors like Yahoo who only provide 7.8% of the web’s searches. However, it is fair to say that its product development for search has stagnated somewhat and it is good to see its competitors stepping up with rival services.
The launch of Microsoft’s Bing, for example, opened people’s eyes to the opportunities of search. Bing went fully online on June 3, 2009 and stormed the industry by gaining 9.3 percent of the United States internet search market by August 2009. It’s not just Bing which is making Google uncomfortable – recent rumors of an agreement between Microsoft and News Corp could see News Corp’s stories de-listed from Google.
Alternative search sources
People are now searching in less likely places where they find results they deem more relevant than the search engines - Twitter is a perfect example. Like Facebook, which in the beginning was laughed at by the likes of MySpace, Twitter has come from relative obscurity to take the world by storm and Google recognises its importance by including it in its ‘live’ search results.
Originally, the newest social media tool for self reflection, Twitter has now become a gateway for breaking news and information. In June 2008, Twitter partnered with Summize to keep the platform stable during Steve Job’s keynote speech about Apple iPhone 3G. Twitter soon acquired the company soon after that, along with five of its engineers, to support its search functionality. Industry speculation over whether Google, Microsoft or Yahoo would buy Twitter demonstrates that its users and the wider industry have long known its full search potential.
Like the internet, search technology has advanced greatly in recent years. The recent launch of Microsoft Live Labs’ Pivot has given us a taste of what we can expect to see in the future. Pivot is a search platform which visualises the results of its search and aims to make it easier for users to interact with massive amounts of data in ways that are powerful, informative, and fun. It demonstrates how businesses are trying to accommodate the complexity and scale data in a non-traditional structure.
Search as navigation
Search potential is not limited to the web, but is also increasingly present on the desktop. Whether it is Google’s desktop or the built-in search from Windows, end users are using search to not only find documents, but also to get to Facebook or open applications, just by typing a keyword. For some it’s much faster than the mouse & click method and it’s a way that consumers are getting used to even if it’s not faster. According to urban legend, 30% of searches in the old Windows Live search were for “www.google.com”. As consumers and businesses hold increasing amounts of data on their PCs, laptops and smart devices, search is going to be a vital tool in managing all this information.
Localisation is critical for successful internationalisation
In our global commercial market, businesses constantly have to contend with customers from a wide range of nationalities, dialects and demographics. The growth of Chinese search giant Baidu is an indicator that fully localised and tailored content and offerings have great traction with local audiences; and this was already important before Google announced they were pulling out of China. Internationalisation in search raises the question of how much businesses should tailor their offerings to the local cultures and languages. We see now how far Google was prepared, or rather not prepared to go in this.
This trend is already driving an increase in the use of specialist searches. As search traffic increases we are seeing more searches which are perfectly adapted to specific markets or content areas. Look at how Farecast is now integrated into Bing for example, or how Flightstats is now integrated into Google.
Search without the box
To a certain extent, the possibilities of search are limited only by our imaginations and technological ability. Search does not necessarily have to begin with a keyword, but could start instead with a click or a touch.
When you click around the hierarchical navigation of your favourite online store, whether you know it or not, you’re using search. The technologies running these sites build their navigation dynamically based on searching what is available, and use search technologies to create product attributes that you can then filter on.
But also there are more interesting opportunities here. Take a look for example at Retrievr: http://labs.systemone.at/retrievr/ Start drawing a picture in the box and see what happens. This is certainly search without the need for typing in keywords. Start thinking where this could go and those possibilities seem more endless than ever.
About the author
Paul Dawson, Experience Director, EMC Consulting, EMEA, is in charge of communicating the company’s strategy and expertise in customer and brand experience, a role that has expanded since the acquisition of Conchango by EMC. Having been instrumental in the launch of the Interactive Media practice, Paul now leads the development of digital strategy and innovation for a number of key clients, including Virgin Atlantic, Barclays and Tesco. This combines design, branding and user experience disciplines to develop better digital experiences for both clients and their customers.
Paul also researches new user-facing technologies and how they can be relevant to EMC, its clients and their customers. He not only determines how the business can adopt and apply these technologies, but how they can acquire and develop the skill sets required to take full advantage of them. Most recently this has been with Microsoft Silverlight and Surface technologies.
Before joining Conchango in 1999, Paul worked for AL Digital for three years. He has almost 13 years experience in ‘new media’, having started his career designing websites for DHL and Cellnet.
Paul has a BA in English & American Studies, with a subsidiary degree in Biophysics.
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