Where is search headed? Kudos to anyone with viable answers to that question, let alone the will to predict where the market is going.
Search Engine Land's Gord Hotchkiss is asking such questions of folks like Microsoft Bing Director Stefan Weitz and now John Battelle.
Battelle arguably kick-started the industry's broader interest in search with his 2005 book, "The Search."
Anyone who has seen him grill folks such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg or Google co-founder Sergey Brin on stage at Web 2.0 Summit knows he's on target when it comes to search and its inevitable intersection with social media.
But he's become somewhat bored by the current Google model and is clearly looking for the next big thing in this must-read Q&A with Hotchkiss:
"We had a very, very basic, well-understood use case for 10 years, which was Google or "like Google"--you put in a couple keywords and you get a response back. And that framework of searching and coming back with the best document to answer a query is morphing. People are asking far more complicated questions now and they're demanding far more nuanced answers, simply because they know they're out there."
He's right. As recently as three years ago, I was entering search queries into Google of four words or less.
One day, while messing around on Google, I started entering full question queries of six, eight, 12 words or longer--and actually getting somewhat relevant answers. I was shocked.
Today, I expect good answers to more complex queries. Google, and Bing and Yahoo for that matter, are getting better at not only matching people's search needs but anticipating related questions by providing more relevant results. Hence universal search.
Yet that's not enough. We've come to expect more.
Battelle noted that when a user enters a query for, say "sub-zero refrigerators" today, he or she expects more than a fan blog post about them. We expect pricing, reviews and other info.
"I think we put in our intentions into search now and what we're getting back is, you know, the answer to every possible potential nuance of your question in a massive list of results, and that's not a good experience."
So, where are we at now in search, despite the greater aggregation of more information sources in searches on Google and Bing?
We're transitioning, possibly to myriad vertical search apps. I had a conversation with Bing's Weitz that covered some of the same ground Hotchkiss covered about where search is going.
Before I write that up for eWEEK.com, know this: Bing has big plans for expanding the zone for the nuances Battelle believes people are looking for in a search engine.
This will be especially evident in Bing Cashback, as well as some of the other vertical search specialty sections Microsoft has, such as recipes and travel. Stay tuned.
Make sure to read the whole Battelle piece, which includes thoughts on why the battle between Google and Apple for the mobile Web is so critical.