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Time To Rethink Internet Search

 11:46 am on Aug 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Time To Rethink Internet Search [bits.blogs.nytimes.com]
We could soon view today’s keyword searching with the same nostalgia and amusement reserved for bygone technologies such as electric typewriters and vinyl records.”

So declares Oren Etzioni, a computer scientist at the University of Washington, in an essay published Thursday in the science journal Nature. (Available online to subscribers or for a single copy purchase of $32.)

The missing ingredients, he writes, are mainly the necessary investments in money and science by leading technology companies and universities. The better world of search, according to Mr. Etzioni, will be services that field spoken or typed questions and generate useful answers. Or, as he writes, “natural-language searching and answering, rather than providing the electronic equivalent of the index at the back of a reference book.”

The big companies engaged in search — Google and Microsoft — have taken steps toward delivering smarter search, Mr. Etzioni concedes. But, he adds, “most of what Google and Microsoft have done so far is to take traditional search and play with it around the edges.”



 11:58 am on Aug 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've often thought that if a search engine really nailed user search intent, delivering THE answer or solution that the user needed or wanted, that such "success" would also spell doom for the search engine as it would likely kill advertising revenues.

Who needs to read or click on ads when the search engine actually serves up exactly what the user needs, wants or was looking for?

Dream on. Search is safe. For most of us, much of the time we, ourselves, aren't exactly clear about what we need, want or what might actually work. :-/

Marketing Guy

 12:00 pm on Aug 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Interesting take, but I think it misses a fairly important point that a lot of people are in fact...morons...and spanking keywords into a search box and throwing a bunch of results back at them is actually an effective method of search for them.

Ever played the game Articulate with someone that isn't particularly literate? That * 6 billion is roughly what would be involved in natural language spoken search. I have enough trouble with non Scots understanding my Scottish accent without Google asking me to repeat myself 50 times on my journey to find out what TV show that actress who's in that thing with that guy that was on last week was in (or whatever pointless piece of information I'm trying to retrieve).

And add to that the immense (and mostly likely insurmountable) task of somehow generating definitive answers to queries that SkyNET can return to users - y'know how people agree on these things really easily...


 2:15 pm on Aug 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Is the world ready for "Don't make me think!" (just gimme my personalized answer) . . search?

I dunno. Somebody gimme the answer. :P


 7:08 pm on Aug 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

They're going to bring Ask Jeeves back from the dead?


 7:12 pm on Aug 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

The butler did it in the data centre with the keyboard?!


 1:08 pm on Aug 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

A list of publications for Professor Etzioni is here [turing.cs.washington.edu ] where the essay Search Needs a shake-up is listed as the most recent for 2011; you can download a PDF of the essay (at no cost) there. IMO, worth the read.

Lots of other interesting projects going on at the Turing Center
[turing.cs.washington.edu ] if you are interested, and so inclined.

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