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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Yesteryear Search Technology & Out Of The (Key word) Box Thinking

Ramesh Jain, the well known Researcher, entrepreneur, and teacher writes about the need for the search engines to change their search approach over time,in the broadband age.Search engines designed for indexing HTML files in dial-up times need to reorient themselves to offer better search in this multimedia, broadband age, says Ramesh. Excerpts with slight edits and my views added:

If broadband is to rapidly become pervasive in even developing countries, then you can not help but wonder about the state of art in search engines including the most popular Big Three (Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo). The two most important issues are the most fundamental issues that have limited the scope of and experience with these one of the most important engines that drive information technology. When search engines started appearing, about a decade ago, access to Internet was usually using a modem that gave you only a few Kilo bits per second. And most content on the Web was text files created using HTML. It was perfectly reasonable to develop search technology based on keywords to search those text documents and make sure that a page will be downloaded using those modems in a few seconds. Considering the task and the technology, the invention of key word box was a great idea. It was efficient and sufficient.

Now we live in the world where everybody accesses, if not today definitely tomorrow, Internet at few Mega bits per second and carries a camera in a pocket that can also be used as an organizer, a computer, and yes as a telephone too. People are shooting pictures, soon video, and sending them to the other side of the Globe. In this changing world the Web will soon look very different. It will have more audio, video, and other sensory data than text. Text will still play an important role, it will always because it speech and text are one of the most powerful information sharing channels. But humans want to share emotions, experiences, and concrete details also. These are provided using other senses in addition to speech.

Clearly we have entered this multimedia cyber-world using broadband. Is it not surprising then that our search engines still rely on the keyword box as the primary interface to navigate information and experiences in the cyber world? We all are constrained by these boxes and many times intensely hate this limitation on our capability to find what we want to, but have no other option. I find it surprising that search engines can index and search billions of pages to find relevant keywords and rank them reasonably well, but they still want to use the same key word box and the result list.

It is interesting that there is a lot of talk about GoogleTV (or MSNTV or YahooTV or Comcast VOD) but very little effort by these giants to think out of the keyword box. TV is attractive because it provides you experiences that you usually don¡¯t get in the text only world of books and Newspapers. So why is it that designers who want to extend search technology beyond text, still want to live in the keyword box?
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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
"All views expressed are my personal views are not related in any way to my employer"