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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Cut to the chase: Let’s get more direct with Search

Shashi Seth
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Shashi Seth
Search is about to change quite radically. For more than a decade, search has been stagnant: the core product has not changed much. Users have changed radically in that time frame. Even though the kind of content users consume is different, search engines are still focused mostly on web pages. Users have become less patient and have less time in hand, while search engines still require users to dig through and extract information from the web pages to find what they are looking for. In addition, users are spending more and more time on their mobile phones and other connected devices, which require a completely different kind of user experience for search.

When we talk about Search, keep in mind that Search, Discovery, Recommendations, Serendipity are all essentially the same thing. Why? Well, to start with, one would need a comprehensive index of content for each of these things to work. This gives you a world view, so to speak. How that index is created has changed over time, and what goes in that index has changed. About ten years ago, the index only consisted of HTML pages, but that information has been changing. How the index was created was again heavily focused on signals provided by HTML pages, links, consumptions, and more. Today, many social signals are consumed, including how often and how quickly a entity or URL is being embedded, is it with positive or negative intent and sentiment and is it trending up or down since last week/month. For example in Yahoo! Search Direct, our index is entirely the content that Yahoo! aggregates for its network, such as Yahoo! Sports, Finance and Local.

Search engines have mostly focused on the backend and infrastructure, and rightly so, because search require a delicate balance between some of the most complex technologies, and a vast amount of infrastructure. Solving today's user needs requires a different focus, a special blend of science, a finely tuned user experience, cutting-edge design skills, and a slightly different mix of engineering and infrastructure.

The question now is – how do search engines respond to this new world?

The answer, to put it simply, is to re-imagine search. The new landscape for search is likely to focus on getting the answers to the user’s needs, without requiring the user to interact with a page of traditional blue links. In fact, there should be a world where there are no blue links on a search results page at all! Search engines will assimilate content from many different sources and will aim to provide immediate and rich answers. You ask a question and you get answers, nothing else. The user should not even type the full question. Search engines will have to become more and more personal, understand the individual users preferences, location, type of content preferred, context from previous search and browse behavior, signals from social graphs, and much more.

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