I'm going to take a step off topic for a moment, but it may connect with the topic in the end...
One major flaw I see with today's search is a terrible waste of screen real estate and the "king of the hill" structure where everyone fights for that single coveted spot. This is pretty much a throwback to the old, small low resolution CRT monitors and we have not really advanced yet.
Anyone remember "penny pixels"? thousands of ads on a single page. Now that was a bit extreme, but a future search engine layout, designed for modern widescreen monitors, could pack at least three to four times the results on one page, perhaps in a grid format with 120 x 60 graphic ad units. In the end, by allowing for more usable space, perhaps this could take some of the "bite" out of drastic updates, like penguin.
There is rarely one good answer and I'd hate to see a Star Trek Computer giving me only one result as it's answer.
Other bonuses would be adding the use of color and company logos. Ya gotta admit, the current SERP format is rather antiquated.