Saturday, May 16, 2009

Search Engine Evolution; What's coming next?

Are search engines becoming more "intelligent"? See for yourself:

New search engines aspire to supplement Google
(CNN) -- We may be coming upon a new era for the Internet search.

And, despite what you may think, Google is not the only player.

New search engines that are popping up across the Web strive to make searches faster, smarter, more personal and more visually interesting.

Some sites, like Twine and hakia, will try to personalize searches, separating out results you would find interesting, based on your Web use. Others, like Searchme, offer iTunes-like interfaces that let users shuffle through photos and images instead of the standard list of hyperlinks. Kosmix bundles information by type -- from Twitter, from Facebook, from blogs, from the government -- to make it easier to consume.

Wolfram Alpha, set to launch Monday, is more of an enormous calculator than a search: It crunches data to come up with query answers that may not exist online until you search for them. And sites like Twitter are trying to capitalize on the warp-speed pace of online news today by offering real-time searches of online chatter -- something Google's computers have yet to replicate. [...]

The article goes on about how Google has come to dominate web searches, capturing nearly 64% of all web searches. The article details how some newer search services are competing by offering things that Google can't, with some interesting examples.

The much-talked about Wolfram Alpha, or Alpha for short, harnesses massive computing power to answer users' questions, even if they're never been answered on the Web before.

"It's not a new Google. It's not supposed to be. It's a new thing. It's very complementary, in a way, to what search engines do," said Theodore Gray, co-founder of Wolfram Research, which created Alpha.

People need to get away from the idea that every 3-inch-long search bar online acts just like Google and Yahoo!, he said.

If you ask Google a question, the search engine's computers scan the Web for matching search terms and come up with answers that make the most sense statistically. Alpha, by contrast, pulls information from existing data sets that have been approved by the site's math-minded staff. The site then computes an answer to your question.

An example will help this make sense.

Say you wanted to find out nutritional information for your favorite recipe. On Google, you would have to search each ingredient individually and then add the calories and fat grams together yourself. With Alpha, you can type in the full recipe and the site produces a completed graphic that looks like it came right off the side of a cereal box. Read about a CNN test of 'Alpha'

Some search sites are trying to get better at understanding what their users want. [...]

The article gives more examples, it's worth reading the whole thing. A fascinating glimpse into the near future. Kewl.

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