Facing criticism over the quality of search results, Google recently tweaked its famously secretive algorithm to weed out spam sites and so-called “content farms.” For all the attention this issue got, however, it’s only one of many search-related challenges confronting the company.
That’s because search is undergoing its most rapid disruption since the dawn of the Google era.
From the perspective of Amit Singhal, a Google fellow who oversees search quality, the pace and scope of changes to search have been accelerating for five years now. In that time, Google unveiled what he called three “paradigm shifts” to its search engine by adding instant search, real-time search, and personalized search.
But the scale and pace of those changes is nothing compared to the changes to come.
“Google’s innovation cycle is accelerating,” Singhal said. “Search has made great leaps and bounds. But we are just getting started on the next generation of search.
“Because Google dominates search, with 65.7 percent of the market, we’ve come to see it as relatively static. And nothing is likely to change that anytime soon. “In the near future, no one is going to substantially challenge Google,” said Danny Sullivan, who runs the Search Engine Land blog, and was in San Jose this past week hosting a search conference.
“Beyond location-based search results, which Google and Bing now offer, mobile has also given us the app-driven experience. Each app is its own little world, containing information that is walled off from search engines. And when it comes to finding mobile apps we want to use, Apple has made iTunes the only place to search for iPhone apps. Google has recently launched its own app store for Android devices. BlackBerry has its own app store to search for its devices. But no service is a one-stop shop to search all apps. For that, you probably need to try a mobile search startup called GetJar.Even as search companies must grapple with mobile and apps, they also must deal with social networks. Facebook has made increasing amounts of its users’ content public, but most of the site is still not searchable by Google. Facebook does have a partnership with Bing, but even those results are limited. And one of my biggest complaints in general is that Facebook’s own search remains primitive. I still can’t do basic things like search for something I posted two years ago, for instance.
Meanwhile, Twitter has created huge volumes of content and Google and Bing have both augmented their search to include such real-time services. But even with special access to Twitter, the companies are able to provide only limited access to things that were tweeted months or years ago.
“We’ve pushed the envelope everyday,” Singhal said. “But clearly our job is not done.”