Google Has Designs on Personalization, Social Search

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-09-11 Print this article Print

Mayer says, "Search engines of the future will be better in part because they will understand more about you, the individual user." She immediately adds, "You will be in control of your personal information, and whatever personal information the search engine uses will be with your permission and will be transparent to you."

Fine words in theory, but these promises from Google are increasingly falling on deaf ears from privacy advocates and even politicians.  

Mayer adds that search engines of the future will know where you are located, perhaps what you know already or what you learned earlier today, or maybe they will "fully understand your preferences because you have chosen to share that information with us."

Hmmm. Unlikely, especially if it is opt-in. Google would need to prove the value add for people to give up the keys to their houses. Regardless, Mayer said Google is investing in research and experimentation on personalized search. Good luck.

She alluded to it in describing personalization, but she reiterated location will be a big factor in search engines, and I couldn't agree more. User location and context will be crucial in honing searches for better targeting and relevancy.

There is also social context, or who we are friends with and how we relate to them. Eventually, search will disambiguate, eliminating vagueness to help people find each other from contextual search. "Algorithmic analysis of the user's social graph to further refine a query or disambiguate it could prove very useful in the future," she wrote.

Finally, Google is investing in machine translation technology to bring the same search results to someone speaking English, Farsi or Dutch. This could be a more appropriate way of describing Universal Search.

Mayer closes by noting that solutions to meet the challenges of mobility, modes, media, personalization, location, socialization and language will take decades. Perhaps, but these groups are already percolating.

Mobile search is far along and ready to be monetized more fully with ads. Social search engines such as Wikia, Delver and Mahalo abound. Google already has a Web translation tool. Search, which is already leveraging location information, will become more personalized once Google can find a way to do behavioral targeting without infringing on users' privacy.

Search is in fine shape. It just needs room to grow under the auspices of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and the long tail of smaller engines providing differentiated services.


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