I always enjoy wild hand-wavey prognostications about the future, so I was pleased to attend the 11th annual Churchill Club Top Tech Trends event last night, moderated by my former co-workers from Red Herring, Tony Perkins (now running Always On) and Jason Pontin (publisher of MIT Technology Review). Of the 12 trends, two really made me take notice. Most of the rest, which you can see at the end of this story, were pretty standard projections from existing market circumstances.
Interesting trend #1: Centralized search will fall
Venture capital whiz-kid Steve Jurvetson gave an impassioned pitch for this trend, which he called, "The triumph of the distributed Web." He said the aggregate power of distributed human activity will trump centralized control. His main point was that Google, and other search engines that analyze the Web and links, are much less useful than a (theoretical) search engine that knows not what people have linked to (as Google does), but rather what pages are open on people's browsers at the moment that people are searching. "All the problems of search would be solved if search relevance was ranked by what browsers were displaying," he said.
Jurvetson believes that the future is "federated search," in which the Web's users don't just execute search queries, they participate in building the index by the very act of searching, immediately and directly.
What I find most interesting about this concept is that we can see it already happening, although via a different technological vector. Twitter Search is real-time search. It tells you what people are saying right now, and on popular topics, it gives you far more current information than Google. I think Twitter Search also shows us that Jurvetson's vision of search, while compelling, is incomplete. To get the real-time wisdom of the crowds for the purpose of search, you have to know not just what Web pages people are displaying, but exactly what is on those pages, and you probably also want to know what's showing up on users' computers in apps other than the Web browser.
I am not sure the Web's users will want to participate in the creation of this search engine, nor am I convinced that there's a lot of value in the concept for obscure or "long tail" search queries. But the idea is interesting, and I certainly agree that the value of real-time searching, as well as social-network-aware searching, will increase dramatically and quickly.… Read more