The Death of Search

Social media will be the next innovation in the most unlikely of places, search ( leveraging the community to scale infinitely ). It’s not that people will all together stop searching, but the approach that they take to finding information will become increasingly social (rather than algorithmic) in nature.

For the last decade, search always seems on the cusp of “intelligent” results. Each new engine promises to be able to overcome “search overload” as Microsoft puts is. Yet none have been able to actualize this goal. If you want to know the best place in NYC to get pizza, you don’t ask google. Why, because google will give you hundreds of results, without any acutal value attached to them. You will certainly find better responses by inquiring through social media.

Social media closely models information obtained the old fashioned way asking someone who knows. “Hey Phil, where’s the best place to get Pizza?”. Phil of course not only knows where the pizza places are, but which one has that authentic margarita that you’ll love, the place with the best service and which server to avoid. This kind of response is an often seemingly just out of reach promise of search engines. Unfortunately, computers just aren’t capable of deriving true value from the related content.

Long ago Yahoo recognized what an engineering challenge this was and launched Yahoo Directory, and later Yahoo search… Both powered by, gasp!, humans. Unfortunately, this didn’t scale very well. It left the door open for someone to write an algorithmic approach that was “good enough”, namely Google‘s Page Rank. Page Rank marked the last major evolution of search which unfortunately was over a decade ago. Certainly progress has been made, but, it has been very incremental rather than evolutionary.

The next evolution in search

The social web promises to assign true value to content. By it’s very nature it will overcome the problem Yahoo encountered years ago. Web 2.0 has transitioned us from being a society of consumers to becoming consuming producers. Delicious.com is a perfect example. To use the service (consume) is to produce adding value and a human touch to every site you bookmark and tag.

The Social Web scales infinitely. As more users consume, more produce. It can span deeper and wider with a level of accuracy that Google could only dream of … and it does so assigning (and creating) value along the way.

It will be interesting to see if Google evolves into something relevant by the time the semantic web takes hold. Looking at recent actions (google wave) it appears they just might.