Yet, one study Yahoo Labs is releasing at the World Wide Web Conference in Raleigh, N.C. - the details of which were provided to The Chronicle in advance - underscores why the sector can't afford to stand still.
It found that people only spend about one-sixth of their online time performing searches. That compares with half of their time for browsing and one-third for communicating, according to aggregated data pulled from the Yahoo Toolbar, a downloadable browser feature that provides quick links to a user's favorite content.
"By looking at the dramatic technological progress (in online search), you'd think that users would increasingly gravitate toward search to run their lives," said Prabhakar Raghavan, who was recently promoted to chief scientist at Yahoo. "But in fact, what we're seeing is that fraction of time isn't particularly growing."
"That begs the question," he added, "what are the new drivers of what we traditionally thought of as search?"