The Future of Search

The search-engine advertising will be a $22 billion industry worldwide by 2010, up from an estimated $8 billion today, according to Safa Rashtchy, a senior analyst with Piper Jaffray in San Francisco. It’s the reason search has become the most hotly contested field in the world of technology. In this context Time Magazine is publishing an in-depth analysis of the trends in the field.

Picture and video. Now that still and moving images are increasingly digitized, they too can be searched with a click, by looking for their titles and other attached identifying text, known as their metadata.

A more futuristic image search, which can scan and recognize facial images, is being developed by Massachusetts-based Viisage. It focuses on unique marks on the human face and can cross-reference pictures with databases

Cell Phones Mobile search is mostly done today with limited text messaging, but by 2008, when more than 75% of new cell phones globally are expected to be Internet-ready, searching the Web on the go will be standard.

Boston-based Mobot, for example,  has developed technology that maps the features in a picture taken with a cell-phone camera and matches it to a database of images.

Questions and answers Search engines are good at matching words across websites but have struggled with nuance to answer questions in everyday language. Google today can answer basic factual queries. The next step is semantic search–looking for meaning, not just matching key words.

User Generated One of the fastest-growing search techniques is tagging, a grassroots phenomenon whereby users label websites with descriptive tags, building a network of knowledge dubbed folksonomy–a taxonomy of knowledge organized by ordinary folk.

Audio Exactly when in the movie did Clark Gable say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”? Blinkx.TV can track down that video clip in a matter of seconds. Speech-recognition technology is improving so rapidly that the company founded by 27-year-old Suranga Chandratillake can capture the audio tracks of videos and turn them into searchable text–making any recorded spoken words immediately searchable.

Satellite Online maps are widely available but now, because pictures are easier to understand than maps, satellites are changing the game. Since buying Keyhole last fall, Google has launched Google Earth, which offers searchable satellite views of the planet. Amazon’s search subsidiary, sent trucks around 22 U.S. cities with digital cameras linked to laptops to photograph every street. So far it has 35 million pictures, which will be overlaid on maps.

Personalized One of the hottest and most controversial new areas is designing software that will get to know individuals’ interests, mostly through their search history–the clickstream.

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