Tag Archives: Google

Search Engine Wars V: Local Personal Awareness

8 Dec

A holiday dinner last night with some of uLocate’s senior team and the leadership of a major telecom carrier raised an interesting discussion of where search is going.

My view: the next big battle in search is going to be about providing search results BEFORE you even ask a question. The next big frontiers for Search include knowing your location without you having to provide it, knowing your likely queries before you type anything into the searchbox, and knowing your behavioral profile (needs, wants, interests) without you having to do anything.

This is the battlefield for Search Engine Wars V — and it is going to be a major showdown, pitting such behemoths as Google and Microsoft against each other, and with smaller armies from the Facebooks, Twitters and uLocates of the world making alliances and contributing arms and assets to the fray.

A quick recap to point out how we got here. The search wars began in the mid-1990s, when the Infoseeks, Yahoos, Excites, Lycos’s and Alta Vistas brought text search to the mass consumer market via the public internet. Before then, text search and data retrieval had been a large, lucrative backwater — a paid product in the business-professional world (remember such brands as Dialog, Lexis-Nexis, Dow Jones News Retrieval — now known as Factiva?)

Those first search companies went public, made millions, were sometimes acquired (Disney-Infoseek, @Home-Excite) or sometimes went under. After that, search became a feature in what became known as the portal wars. I call this period Search Wars II. Many of the technical leaders thought text search was a finished product, and lost their focus on improvements while turning instead to such important initiatives as personalization, feed syndication and e-commerce tools.

This inattention left open search world to Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who did a brilliant job of improving search and threw down the gauntlet of Search Wars III: The Rise of Google. And, more recently with the launch of its vastly improved Bing service, Microsoft has at long last battled back — and, coupled with its Yahoo search deal — is fighting hard in Search Wars IV.

That’s why I believe it is time to think about what’s next. And to my mind, the next battle in search is going to be about saving users time and effort by providing knowledge about likely searches before a customer has to type anything into the search box.

We can already see some of this, with services such as uLocate’s WHERE, which begins to understand some basic information about you (e.g. your location) from your voluntarily-supplied data on your mobile device. With that information, uLocate can tell you the location of nearby businesses (Starbucks, a gas station, the closest Fedex Office or UPS store) as well as provide you with tips and reviews about local restaurants, nightspots, etc. The user doesn’t have to DO anything, other than turn on their mobile device and launch the application.

There is much improvement ahead. Some may argue that the big fight today is about real-time search, but I think that is only a new skirmish in the current Search Wars IV. Only the barest outlines of the battle formations for the big next thing are apparent today. But I am putting some of my bets on those businesses that are preparing for this world of next-generation search.

Let the battles commence….

Note: Danny Sullivan had a related post on Google’s personalized approach here.

When Does Communication Become Information?

9 Feb

Virtually immediately. But — this just in — not all interesting communication is valuable information.

I’ve been thinking about this question as I have gotten increasingly involved with Twitter (and its various plug-ins, cousins and competitors). Use is growing fast of the status message (Facebook) or its real-time Twitter-ish equivalent (Tweets, etc.). These messages are rapidly transitioning from quick update resource (“So-and-so just arrived @ ATL”) to headline alert (“USAir 1549 ditched in Hudson; photos here“).

What got me thinking about this issue of the value of these updates is the current debate over whether the rise of this communication is a ‘Brave New World’-ish event that puts at risk the very mission of a current leader of the Web world (Google) and its very mission: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Or whether something a little less earth-shattering is at work.

Here is the debate: Google and other search engines are great archival resources, finding all the information one could want; but they are not doing such a comprehensive job with the real-time, “crowd-sourced” web, and searchable Twitter, Yammer and FB status updates are the next new thing and the incumbents will fail to get a grip on the new ‘borg-sourced hivemind” of the distributed internet. Etc., etc. (Note: I just saw Kara posted on this at allthingsd.com).

Hmmm.

It is an interesting argument. But so far, the rise of the status update feels ‘more, better, faster’ to me. In the news business, the same challenge of tapping the value of real-time information has been around for generations: Baron Paul Reuter’s famed carrier pigeons bearing news of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo were an earlier form of ‘tweet.’ The information carried by those birds was actionable financial intelligence that made some folks wealthy, and in many respects created the Reuters news brand.

If the pigeons had simply been carrying word that ‘Wellington arrived Waterloo’ there would have been less value.

There is often a bit of a feeling of deja vu. Only a few years ago, there was some enthusiasm that blogsearch (Technorati. Sphere) would help with monitoring the real-time web. While no doubt helpful, they did not exactly set the Earth spinning on a new axis.

The value of real-time status will be a function of the value of the content of the update, I suppose. Until we come up with some new tools to better infer content, and context, from those updates by some other means, we are going to have to rely upon one another to make sure we are providing some real information in our communication.

As it has always been…..

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