We all use web search engines every day. There are about 3 Billion search queries every day around the world. We hear pundits say that search hasn't advanced much beyond the search box and 10 blue links. Pundits would have you believe search innovation is dead. They are wrong...very wrong.
Look at this example from a recent presentation by Jason Calacanis, founder of Mahalo. Jason compared a Google result page in 2007 to a similar result page in January 2011. The differences are amazing, yet so subtle and smoothly integrated that we hardly noticed when it happened.
Now look at a similar search result from January 2011. Notice all the additional search result types, photos, videos, news results, etc.
Now take a look at this search result for a tiny restaurant in Hampton, New Hampshire. Note the maps, address, telephone number, directions, Google Places page, customer reviews, Instant Search, etc. These features weren't there a few years ago. But, they were added so smoothly and gradually that we hardly noticed the changes over the years. Also note the absence of advertisements. If there isn't a relevant ad...Google doesn't insert generic ads.
Some of Google's search innovations are very subtle or behind the scenes. For example, the amazing speed of the search is the result of huge investments in servers and infrastructure. The freshness of the results is attributable to a Google project called Caffeine. It is a new search index that provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches, and the largest index of web pages ever assembled. Google Instant uses predictive text to anticipate what a user will search for, displaying results instantly as you type each letter of a search.
There are so many Google search features you almost need a search engine to find them all :-) Things like weather, stock quotes, sports scores, time conversions, unit measure conversions, language translations, book search, shopping, news, blogs, etc.
For example, do a search for a new movie title like "No Strings Attached". Google instantly knows that while "no strings attached" could refer to many things, there is a new movie by that name, so that is probably what you are looking for. Google also knows your approximate location if you are signed in, so it displays local movie theaters, show times, photos, ratings and reviews. And, they do all this in the blink of an eye...less than 2 tenths of a second. Amazing!
Search innovation will continue for years to come. Local and Mobile search have lots of possibilities for innovation that leverage location awareness, personal preferences, and social network inputs. Based on these signals search results could include relevant coupons, offers, and advertising. Mobile phones will have better voice search, QR code and bar code recognition, and utilize the camera for things like Google Goggles search, and many more innovations.
The best innovations are the ones we use without even noticing them. They are so simple, intuitive, and smoothly integrated that we instantly use them without even thinking about it. The first two screen shots from Jason Calacanis are a perfect example of how search innovations change and improve without us even noticing. Pretty cool.
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