Alex Iskold wrote a thought provoking post on how the future of search was going to look very different than what Google offers today (please go read it, I’ll wait here). As we increasingly move towards mobile search, it is safe to assume that the paradigms of web search will have to evolve for an increasingly mobile first, and mobile only world. Alex argues that the future of search will emerge through text, providing you with less results to arrive at an answer, and be indistinguishable from conversation with a real person on the end.
It is interesting to think about how advances in AI could reshape how we interact with our devices to access the unending amount of information out there, but I’m not sure if it will play out the way exactly the way Alex describes. That is the fun part of technology, we’re not sure what shape the future will take, but we do have the opportunity to try and shape it ourselves.
AI would need to improve exponentially to effectively deliver the kind of search at scale that Alex discusses in his post. It would have to successfully deal with nuance, be adaptive, and possess tremendous anticipatory capabilities. Think about how you search today, and all the things that happen in your head as you parse through that set of initial links you’re shown, or how you refine your search to be more specific, or change your search entirely when you see that you’re not even close to arriving at the answer you wanted. What seems simple, and second nature to us as humans interacting with powerful technology on a daily basis, is often taken for granted. A lot of work will have to go into making machines behave, and think like humans when trying to carry out seemingly simple tasks for us. I think we’re still in the early innings, but I do agree with Alex, that search will look fundamentally different in the future as it becomes increasingly optimized for mobile, and leverages emerging advances in technology.
Google is probably one of, if not the best positioned player to help build the future of what a different search experience will look like on mobile, and it is in their best interest to do so, or risk serious disruption to their corse business. Creating a great search experience on mobile, that feels intuitive, easy, and accurate might also help Google maintain its position as the starting point for many on the Internet, as it faces increasingly stiff competition from the rise of apps. Searching for a physical product? Amazon. Searching for a restaurant or service provider? Yelp. Searching for a flight? Kayak. The list goes on.
As the burgeoning app ecosystem begins to disintermediate Google search, Google’s best hope for the future is to provide a magical experience for it’s users. Maybe it’s one where it feels like you’re talking to a friend…that just happens to be a machine?