Monday, August 21, 2006

Next Search Wave: It's What you do with the Data

When I was covering search engines more closely, we would often try to figure out the direction that the space would evolve. Certainly the index would get larger, and they would sort out how to index the contents of a Flash file. Additionally, we expected to see an increase in speed and even more customization features. But that was all pretty mundane stuff. Or, rather, not mundane, but expected. All those features were natural evolutions of what we already had.

But there is always the chance of disruption. Someone taking search in a totally innovative way. While I would never have professed to know the direction, it seemed that the real opportunity lay in what you did with the information you had in the index. You had two great data sources: what was published, along with what people searched for (and purchased).

The opportunity lay somewhere in running scenarios across this data and determining the chances of various connections, events and insights. The opportunity was to somehow get predictive.

Farecast is going national, and it is one of the best examples of this next wave (Zillow being another). The service captures tons of data about airfares and makes predictions about when a ticket price will go up or down. Using it, you can make a decision to buy a seat either right away, or predict when the price will be at its lowest.

This is truly innovative thinking. Certainly, it is valuable to be able to compare prices from several carriers. But all that is presentation of data. The use of that data? That represents a significant, disruptive breakthrough. This is the way search engines should be thinking.
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