Day 2 of SMX West 2008 was kicked off with a keynote by Louis Monier, formerly with Google, eBay and Alta Vista and currently Vice President of Products for Cuil, an up and coming search property.
Monier made it clear that his address would be on search history and future aspects and not on Cuil.
He started out with a history of search. As is often the case with something new, he said that the first phase of the Internet was rejection. The web was only as good as its index, which was limited at the time to human edited directories. Full text search was needed but the early engines were slow with limited indexing. Alta VIsta came along with a huge 16 million page index and something new, a way to check backlinks to a site (link:www.mysite.com), possibly the beginning of search marketing.
Alta Vista dominated for a while, but around 1998 index spam became a problem with top results filled largely with garbage. Around this time Google started out with link analysis, giving much better results, as well as the beginning of discrete, targeted ads.
Today, we have a huge front runner, Google, with a couple of out of breath competitors and a number of also-rans, he said.
Currently queries can appease most searchers most of the time and these can even be cached. Really long queries (black leather jacket with green stripe and fur collar) are another matter. The search engines don’t handle those really precise queries, so results are few.
What is the right query?
“Search is about one-shot queries,” he said. “From a certain point, we’re still in 1995.”
Search engines could take a clue from ecommerce sites, which slice and dice info to narrow down consumer choices, he said.
And, do search engines cover enough? Clearly size does matter. Search engines have a responsibility to find out of the way gems as well as popular sites, so they need insight. Currently, human powered directories, personalized, social and vertical search can only take us so far.
Ten years from now, he doesn’t see us typing two words into a box and hitting the search key. Among the possibilities are a sort of search assistant that will compile results for us based on our specifications.
At any rate, search is still in its infancy, he said, with great things to come.
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