By David Dorf on Nov 03, 2009
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.
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.