Next-gen Search

If you've followed the hype surrounding Wolfram Alpha, you know that search is slowly changing. Typically, people use search to find information that is then used to make an informed decision. That's traditionally how it works with product searches as well. For instance, searching for a digital camera yields several different results, including sellers, reviews, and shopping aggregators. Now you are left to comb through the different sites, noting information in order to make a purchase decision.

But here's the problem. That's actually lots of work. Some of the prices include tax and shipping, but some don't. One or two reviews don't actually constitute a trustworthy assessment. You need to dig up lots of perspectives and look for trends. And you should probably search the coupon sites as well so you're not passing up an even better deal.

So while the Web and search engines are great at finding tons of information, they don't do much to help process the information into something usable. That's where search is starting to change. Microsoft's Product xRank (from Bing) has attempted to better aggregate information into usable data. For example, their product rankings help aggregate information and shortcut the decision process.

product xrank.JPG

We're closing in on the ability to ask, "Where can I buy the best compact, point-and-shoot digital camera for the lowest price?" Give it a couple more years.

Comments:

You're right in pointing out that more and more objective data is made available to searchers, but your conclusion is a bit misleading. "Best" is a totally subjective adjective, what's best for me is not what's best for you. So what you'll get from this analysis is an average value, that will not necessarily be useful for you specifically.

Customizing the answer to that question for a specific user will be a far more complex task, and has a lot do to with social aspects than with pure number-crunching.

Posted by Ofer Egozi on November 04, 2009 at 09:32 PM CST #

Good point Ofer. Searches will still require parameters, so "best" needs to be qualified with several attributes. My point is that we're going from simply searching for information to searching for answers, and that's a good thing. Thanks for commenting.

Posted by David on November 05, 2009 at 01:34 AM CST #

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David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


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