Google’s Long Term Search Plan

Amit Singhal, one of Google’s chief engineers who has been with the search engine since 2000, recently gave a talk about his aspirations from when he started at the search engine.  Functionality created over the years such as Google Maps, Earth and Google Books were steps aimed at achieving Google’s goal of making all information universally available.

Moving into the future, Amit says there are several functionalities he dreams about implementing one day in an effort to make information accessible and less of a process to retrieve.

  • Search beyond text Information that does not come in textual form, such as images, rely on nearby captions, headlines or text – which is then matched with the users search query to result in relevant image results. Today, colors, shapes, and other optical data is factored into a search. This is described by Amit as a very basic form of “Computer Vision Algorithms.”
  • Search beyond language Google is now capable of sorting search results in particular languages; you then can use Google Translate to help interpret the rest of the results.
  • Relevant Search Queries By filtering search results at the national level first, Google started to make search results more relevant to their users. Expanding on this, the new social search feature is aimed at making search results that much more relevant by showing commentary from people you follow on social networks.
  • Real time search Launched in December of 2009, and includes information from social network sites such as Twitter, Facebook, blog RSS feeds and more. This was an update with Caffeine and the outcome of this feature is that Google is able to provide articles more quickly to its users.
  • Contextualized meaning Algorithms are working out contextualized meaning for word variations (sale, sail) without a person first needing to enter in the meaning of these words. It can now all be done with algorithms.
  • Searching without searches According to Amit, being able to search without searching first is not realistic with the technology of today, nor is it in the long term road map for Google. However, his vision of search-less search revolves around the amalgamation of all the services Google currently offers (Maps, real-time search etc) and being able to deliver this information to the user, without the user having to ask for it.

With the example Amit used during his talk, it seems as though this technology for search-less search is quite possible. For example:

“Imagine that you have to buy a new cricket bat because your old one’s broken and you happen to have an hour of free time between meetings one day. Your phone knows about your shopping needs because they’re in your to-do list and it knows about your meetings because they’re in your schedule. All it needs is your location (which, of course, it has) and some local area information, and it’ll ping out a message advising you that you can just pop down the road, buy that wooden stick, and be back in time for your 2PM meeting”.

In my opinion, this last capability of “search-less search” is very likely in the near future. It will be interesting to see what other functionalities Google implements over the next 20 years and how these functionalities will make information gathering and accessibility that much more faster, or instantaneous.

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