Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Next Gen Search

Nice article in TIME about how the Search Engines are gearing up to help us in our ever-increasing quest to know. Some excerpts :

You land late in the evening in a city where you know nobody. You did not have time to book a hotel, your luggage has not turned up on the carousel--and the plane's air conditioning gave you a sore throat. What to do?

With your cell phone, you first Google your suitcase--it has a small implanted chip that responds to radio waves with a GPS locator--and it turns out that your luggage has been deposited 200 yds. away in the next terminal. As you walk over, you search for a hotel room; the screen of your cell shows you pictures of several hotels in your price bracket, with views from individual room windows. Your search engine gives you a list of pharmacies that are still open at this hour, and tells you that your favorite blues band will be playing at a festival in the city's park over the weekend. The engine can search your desktop back home, and it reminds you that a college friend e-mailed you a year ago to say he and his wife were moving to this city (you had forgotten). You decide to invite them to the festival.

the battle is on for the next generation of search, which will be smarter and more tailored to the individual, embrace video and music--and be accessible from any device with a chip. By 2010, search-engine advertising will be a $22 billion industry worldwide, up from an estimated $8 billion today

Want to know more about what you see in front of you? Boston-based Mobot has developed technology that maps the features in a picture taken with a cell-phone camera and matches it to a database of images. "Within a decade, it will be inconceivable that you lived in a world where you couldn't interact with the objects around you--taking a picture and getting back information about it or making a purchase--using a mobile device," says Mobot marketing vice-president Lauren Bigelow.

One of the fastest-growing search techniques is tagging, a grassroots phenomenon whereby users label websites with descriptive tags, building a network of knowledge dubbed folksonomy--a taxonomy of knowledge organized by ordinary folk.

One of the hottest and most controversial new areas is designing software that will get to know individuals' interests, mostly through their search history--the clickstream. Findory, a Seattle-based news-search site launched in January 2004, provides access to news stories and blogs. As you start searching for certain types of stories, the site gradually learns about your preferences, and the home page evolves to mirror your interests.

Search is "forcing us to reconsider what it means to be a public person," says John Battelle, co-founder of Wired and author of The Search, due out in September. "Search is everything and will be everywhere." Coming soon to a chip near you.