What I Want From My Search EngineIf Amazon can incorporate information about my preferences and history to deliver targeted results why can't Google? I want smart results! I want the search engine to be constantly learning from my interaction with it such that it establishes a predictive aspect to what it does. In an similar way that Amazon can suggest books or music to me based upon my past purchases and ratings, I want my search engine to deliver personalized results. For example, if I search for "lenses" wouldn't it be cool if the SE knew that I wasn't talking about eye glasses or my retina but about cameras? I want my search engine to know that I am a Nikon shooter and to show me not just Nikon lenses, but the ones that I don't already own. If I input my favorite author wouldn't it be cool if my search engine knew what Walter Mosley books I had already read and could return a list of his books - starting with the ones I haven't read yet? Wouldn't it be cool if I input "NFL" and if it was during the season it knew who my fantasy players were and returned timely data on them first - and then data about my favorite teams?
The best thing about the internet is the enormous amount of information it holds. The worse thing about the internet is the enormous amount of information it holds. Search engines are the tools designed to help people weed through the forest of data to find the precise leaf we're looking for. Even though Google does a wonderful job, I still have a very clear vision for what I want out of my 21st century search engine. In short, I need it to be much smarter - about me. Sure, now I can qualify my search queries in such a way as to more precisely return relevant results - but that's not good enough. I want it to know things about me - whatever I choose to share - and to intelligently respond based upon that personal data. Here's what I'm after:
I am one of those who certainly understands the need for privacy and security of personal data. That said, I am willing to prudently divulge personal information if I can benefit from it. I would be willing to complete both a demographic and psychographic survey to enable my search engine to be much smarter about its results to me based upon who I am and how I think. If my search engine could know that I am in my mid 40's and a father of four young boys, that I am a marketer/entrepreneur, and that I grew up in New England but now live in Atlanta - as well as what my Myers Briggs reading is and what my over-all personality type is and the things that I value in life etc. - I've got to think it could deliver much more accurate and targeted responses. If it knew that I am African American and enjoy social networking and live in Atlanta why couldn't my intelligent search engine proactively suggest a new online social community for Atlanta African American dads?
Based upon my IP address, the search engine knows where I am and could, seemingly, incorporate that into its returns. Shouldn't I just be able to input "parks" and get results within a 25 mile radius of me - (and have pictures of the parks and their hours and costs and perhaps restaurants or other relevant locations nearby)? If I input "Michael Jackson", shouldn't my search engine be able to immediately return results of the closest concert dates to my location? I know Google is starting to do this, but it would seem that a greater degree of personalized detail would make it even more useful. (It goes without saying that if I am searching on a mobile device with a GPS that my search results should be matrixed by my location.)
Social networking has become a major component of the online experience; I know it certainly has for me! I very much respect the opinions and perspectives of my various networks of friends and colleagues and love being connected to them. Wouldn't it be cool if I could retrieve search results tapping into the collective insights from my network of family and friends about something personal or my business colleagues for a business matter? For example, if I input "restaurant" wouldn't it be cool if the results came back based upon both my location and the preferences of my local personal contacts? If I input "advertising agency" wouldn't it be cool if I could get search results that reflected the insight of my business network? This obviously entails the integration of search with social networking, but I see huge potential and power in this concept.
The current look for search engines comes from a time when large portions of users accessed the internet via slow dial-up connections. While I enjoy the clean look of a Google page, it really is quite archaic. I'm a visual person, moved by what I see. With current high speed penetration increasing every day, why can't I choose to have a much more graphic experience for my searches? Why can't I see a page of clickable images that reflect the sites returned from a search - perhaps something like the way newser.com delivers current news or the way searchme.com lets you scroll through web pages - but, oh, about five generations more sophisticated? I'd like something dynamic and graphic intensive that lets me actually see the fabric and texture of the data that is given me.
These items wouldn't seem to be monumentally difficult - particularly for Google, a company that is a veritable wellspring of innovation. No doubt companies are working on even more advanced search concepts; I guess I'm just impatient! While the privacy issues might present something of an obstacle, people should be able to opt in and divulge (or not) whatever data they wish - with the associated impact on their search results to follow. Maybe someone invents something that resides on the desktop that could acts as a confidential 'data sift', utilizing personal information, web and search histories to customize search results from the web that would filter and customize the search engine's responses?
At the end of the day I'm fairly confident that this is the general direction that search has to go in. The "Semantic Web" - a smarter and more intuitive web experience - is ostensibly where Net thinkers are hoping to take things. Finding ways to funnel more of what individual users are interested in from the vast wilderness of data in the internet is the key to the future. That key would seem to be a hugely monetizable benefit - generating greater clicks by users who are getting results just for them and, therefore, allowing search engines to charge more for their ads. Let's keep our eyes peered. A 'personal web' is coming! :-)