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Web Search's Future: Anything but Text

Posted by: Olga Kharif on May 31, 2005

Ok, I love Google, I really do. But search results that appear in a text form just won’t cut it for much longer. After all, tons of new search services out there offer cool voice-based and even animated search.

I admit, some of these ideas are quirky. Take (don’t ask me where the name comes from, it’s a mystery), a service due to launch this June and targeting cell phone users. You can simply call a toll-free number, and a live Angel (I am not making this up, this really is how the service calls its reps) will perform the Web search for you, then text-message the results to your cell phone or even e-mail them to you. The idea is for you to avoid squinting at your small mobile screen. And I think this is not a bad idea. Of course, we’ll have to see about its price.

Plently of cool search services are free, though. And several search engines I've tried offer neat, visual searches., for instance, claims to offer the fastest way to search the Web. Here's how it works: By holding your cursor over an icon next to the search results, you can get an instant preview of the Web page the link is leading to. This can be a lot more helpful than Google's text summaries, which often send users on wild goose chases for information that's not really in the document they are directed to.

But my favorite, lately, has been a site called I admit, part of the attraction is the cute animated genie that pops up while I am waiting for search results to compile. Better yet, you get your results in a chart form. Basically, you get a chart of all the words your search word/words are associated with, as well as a one-graf preview of each result.

How this works: Say, I am looking for "Star Wars." The chart will lead me to categories such as "game" and "reviews." That will help me quickly locate a movie review.

While Google still rocks, these visual features make searching a lot more fun than looking through plain text. Lots of bloggers out there seem to like the idea. And I believe that, eventually, all search engines will have to become more visually appealing. After all, they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

As mobile phone use growth, perhaps search engines will start offering voice services, too.

After all, search results that look like text are so 1990s.

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Reader Comments

steve baker

May 31, 2005 10:08 AM

Olga, I'm puzzled about the economics of AskGod. If you talk to computermakers or phone companies, they'll tell you how outrageously expensive it is to run call centers. Many dollars per call. And they're busy not only offshoring them, but sending in robotic substitutes. And now this company want to build a profitable service using what promises to be an enormous call center? As you say, you have to wonder how much they'll charge.

Jack Krupansky

May 31, 2005 12:00 PM

Gentle reminder: back in 1998, Google's stark simlicity was so retro in comparison with all the so-called "portals" (including Netscape) which were playing precisely the game you describe. In finance, they call it "chasing yield" and it's *not* a good thing to do. As Google has so ably proved, sticking to a relatively small number of features and doing them extremely well and delivering very high value to customers is a sure path to big profits.

Sure, I can think of plenty of enhancements and offshoots for Google (or Microsoft or Amazon or eBay or Sun, et al), including ways of making basic search more usable, but "fun" expansion is not the same as business success (total profits and profit margins).

-- Jack Krupansky

Web Design India

September 8, 2006 03:15 PM

After reading your article I really like the, they have really very good features. And genie is really nice and entertaining.

Juan Carlos

August 7, 2007 05:52 PM

The new search engines will be able to summarize and be more accurate using individual preferences.

They will also be able to apply linguistics to analyse content and and interpret questions.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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