The Future of the Search Engine

Can you imagine an Internet without Google search? Oren Etzoni, a Washington University computer scientist, can. Or, at least he pictures a very different kind of search. "We could soon view today's keyword searching with the same nostalgia and amusement reserved for bygone technologies such as electric typewriters and vinyl records," he declares in Nature. In other words, the Google of the future could (and maybe should) look very different than the search engine of today. But, what exactly will a more modern search look like? Etzioni and others weigh in with their ideas, providing a picture of what online searching could look like.

No more keyword search box. Eztioni urges developers to think outside the keyword search box. "One threat to progress is the keyword search box, an innovation-retarding trap that 'exerts a powerful gravitational pull,'" explains Bits Blog's Steve Lohr. But if not the search box, then what? Etzioni imagines that people would speak a question and the computer would find an answer. Of course, some alternative mining methods already exist. For example, Shazam and SoundHound, services that identify songs from their notes, are a sort of audio search. But, as Nicholas Scalice computer science blogger points out on his blog, the entity that figures out how to combine all these existing search technologies -- audio search, barcode search, realtime search -- will succeed.

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