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Internet Search Company Execs Disagree on Future Search Technology 74

Techie writes A panel of search engine executives at the Supernova 2006 conference in San Francisco agreed that there is still much that can be done to enhance the user's search experience, but seemed unable to agree on much else.
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Internet Search Company Execs Disagree on Future Search Technology

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  • by Solra Bizna ( 716281 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:10PM (#15591124) Homepage Journal

    This just in. A panel met, and failed to come up with anything! More on that after sports.


  • Agree? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Can we agree to have search results show less garbage?

    Yah yah, one man's garbage is another's treasure... :)
    • Re:Agree? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:30PM (#15591290) Homepage Journal
      Can we agree to have search results show less garbage?
      Buy search results show less garbage on eBay! []

      Get information related to search results show less garbage on Yahoo! []

      Register your search results show less garbage at! []

      Download music by search results show less garbage at iTunes! []

      Search results show less garbage breasts! []
      • Re:Agree? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Ah, no.

        What the parent was saying is that when I search for "clutch Ferrari explosion diagram", I don't want ads for fucking mechanic's shops. I want an explosion diagram - NOT FUCKING ADS TO SELL ME SHIT IN THE SEARCH RESULTS! On the side is Ok. I just REALLY hate it when I need information and I click on a (seemingly) related link and all I get is a sales spiel.


      • Re:Agree? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Tx ( 96709 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:56PM (#15591521) Journal
        Thing is that shit works. I just clicked on the "breasts!" link, I couldn't help myself :).
  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <> on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:12PM (#15591141) Journal

    Warning, jargon-speak: From the article:

    The biggest challenge is how the industry and the providers take search "beyond the box and provide you with a 'delight experience.' That is the future and where we are trying to go," Sifry said.
    I get goosebumps, but not of delight when I hear executives talking about "delight experience". Maybe his heart is in the right place but language like that is fingernails on my chalkboard.

    Interesting to me, I think internet search has matured nicely and my overall experience is high on the satisfaction scale. I rely heavily on Google and use Ask occasionally and virtually always find links and information germaine to my keywords. I think more important than refining searches is maturing content.

    As often as not, I get to the links I expected to find from search only to find poorly implemented sites that offer no value to my quest. Mostly my experiences of internet-search deficiencies occur at the endpoint (the found links), not the transport (the search engines).

    Only moments ago I had just one such episode. I recently moved back to Illinois and am in the process of getting my legal stuff in order, in this case vehicle registration, license plates, and drivers license.

    I easily found the Illinois web sites, but that has done little to move me further in the task at hand. The DOV Illinois sites are confusing, convoluted, obfuscated, and have been little help in understanding exactly all I must do to complete my responsibilities. Thankfully the most important piece of information is included on their site, the dreaded toll free phone number to call. Sigh.

    (In the article Sifry did hit on something I'd like in internet searching, though he tied it to mobile devices The notion of "location" would be nice. I would point out that Google does a pretty good job of wiring location into their search simply by prefixing any search with a zip code (sorry non-USAers)... and the resulting search will preamble the results with some zip code specific results.) (I still have no inclination to want or need mobile presentation and ergonomics... while it will always be nice to get some info on a mobile device I am always close enough and not desparate enough to get to some land-based internet access. Besides, when you desperately do need mobile access to information, you're unlikely to get it! Don't even get me started on my cross country Verizon debacle, and complete radio-cell silence from Billings Montana to past Mitchell, SD!)

    So for me, bottom line, internet searching: already good and getting better, internet content: not so good and seemingly slow to improve. The biggest return on investment would seem to be better content everywhere but that would also be a huge distributed (and nigh impossible) effort.

    • by alfrin ( 858861 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:56PM (#15591517)
      I easily found the Illinois web sites, but that has done little to move me further in the task at hand. The DOV Illinois sites are confusing, convoluted, obfuscated, and have been little help in understanding exactly all I must do to complete my responsibilities. Thankfully the most important piece of information is included on their site, the dreaded toll free phone number to call. Sigh.
      I'm amazed, I didn't think it was possible to mimic the experience of a real DMV office on a website!
    • by sapgau ( 413511 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @03:07PM (#15591628) Journal
      I agree 100%. What seems to happen is for web owners and designers is to be a little more aware (i.e. less arrogant) of their user's needs and follow common accepted practices. Some of these recommendations [] have been around since the beginning of the internet.
      • I agree, to a point.

        With the web maturing like a 15 year old girl on hormone therapy, the concept of content and purpose need to be re-examined constantly. While I am annoyed at the inability of a large chunk of web designers to grasp the concept of navigation, I am equally annoyed at web "experts" who try to dictate the purpose of the web.

        If the web is to remain a free environment, people should be free to put whatever crap they want up there. If a search engine can't index it properly, too bad for the con
        • Point taken, and I don't see anything wrong with creating/expressing art in your web design. Actually I think that those that do, have a better understanding of how web pages work.

          I like to reference Alertbox [] not to piss the artistic liberal types but to have something to show the managers and team leaders of your typical corporate web projects. Because the tips are all too obvious (maybe arrogant) and mostly common sense it is very hard to argue against them and prevents anybody from reinventing the wheel
          • Man, I can't tell you haw many clients I have shown Alertbox to. I then show them the Marketing Sherpa internet usage reports and they drop their jaws. "People really do that?" is a common response.

            I didn't want my post to come off as criticising yours, just to add another dimention to it. I really wish some "designers" would read this stuff. Surmising how the rest of the world uses the web off of your personal web surfing habits is a bad move. I have to constantly fight PHB's on this issue also.

            I just feel
  • by aleksiel ( 678251 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:13PM (#15591146)
    1) Lots of execs from the online search engine industry met
    2) They agree that noone is doing it well and there's lots of room for improvement
    3) ???
    4) Profit!
  • by TheNoxx ( 412624 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:14PM (#15591163) Homepage Journal
    It'd be an option to search for only legitimate websites that are on topic with my search and filter out bullshit entries trying to make a quick buck from ads with no real content; perhaps something that uses a wiki or other list, if only a bit more controlled and less freely-edited, combined with clicks out and recommendations. Similarly, an option to filter out forum posts and the like wouldn't be amiss either.
    • There are lots of places out there that have 'inventoried' lists. I don't know the preferred term for them. But, searchable sites where someone has gone through and collected relevant sites for different topics. The cost versus traditional search engines is that you get fewer results, and might very easily be missing the best and newest site. The benefit is that you are getting fewer results and not getting the worst and newest site.
    • I couldn't agree more. It is practically impossible to search for general information, or a review, about a product and not get a mountain of links to comparison shopping sites that are selling the product you're looking for. It doesn't seem to matter what you're looking for, you will also end up with nothing but links to buy the product, especially with electronics.
    • Well, if there's one thing I'd wish for...
      It'd be an operator to test for the age of the document I'm searching.
      If I already searched for something a month ago, and to search again to check for something new, I could search for "something age:-30d".

      But I don't know if would make much sense, as file date info are generally not very reliable (ex, cp --preserve-timestamps is not the default).
    • Allowing users to rate individual search results for accuracy and relevancy would be good. Search algorithms could 'learn' from that, or at the very least they could be displayed alongside similar search results. On the other hand, I suppose the spammers would just rate their own ad pages high...
  • Lazy Customers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:14PM (#15591170)
    Technorati's Sifry said people want devices to be more aware of factors such as location, so if they were in San Francisco searching for, say, a store, they would not have to specify their location.

    But what loop holes will I have to jump thru if I'm in SF and want to search for a store in LA? How frickin' hard is it to type in ... "San Fransisco Store" ... as opposed to just "Store"?
    • But what loop holes will I have to jump thru if I'm in SF and want to search for a store in LA? How frickin' hard is it to type in ... "San Fransisco Store" ... as opposed to just "Store"?

      Probably not a lot more difficult than typing in "Los Angeles Store".

      • Re:Lazy Customers (Score:5, Interesting)

        by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:33PM (#15591315)
        Wouldn't the premise be then that if you type "Los Angeles Store" ... it would search the San Fransisco stores for something named "Los Angeles Store?" ... which brings up the question, how does it know if "Los Angeles" if the name of the city you're searching in, or the name of the product / store you're searching for?

        While in SF ... use this technology to search for "Texas Roadhouse Steaks" ... will it search for "Roadhouse Steaks" in Texas? ... or "Texas Roadhouse Steaks" in SF?

        Oh boy, I'm confused.
        • "While in SF ... use this technology to search for "Texas Roadhouse Steaks" ... will it search for "Roadhouse Steaks" in Texas? ... or "Texas Roadhouse Steaks" in SF? "

          While my first comment was just a joke (didn't get it? ;-), I'll make a serious response to this new comment:

          If you asked a person something like "Where can I find Texas Roadhouse Steaks", what would you assume he was wasking for? The guy probably wants to find "Texas Roadhouse Steaks", preferably the nearest one.

          If you asked a person s

          • Wouldn't it be funny if AI came about accidentally by companies just trying to make search engines work better?

            Funny? Not particularly. Realistic? Absolutely. Likely? I think so.

            Not to wander too far off track, I often think that some of the Cyberpunk crowd has it right: the most probable way for us to develop true AI is for it to spontaneously emerge from/as the internet. In my particularly paranoid/flight-of-fancy moments, I wonder if it hasn't already happened. After all, there's no particular reason to
        • You're sadly right. There are few ways to show what context you want for your keywords as opposed to the keywords theirselves.
          Yes, things like 'site:' do help, but are quite limited.
          What I'd like to see is a multiline textbox for my query. The first line would be keywords as usual.
          The next lines would be context of various kinds: sites/domains, date ranges, parts of the document (headings, navigation, main text, bibliography, etc), kind of the document (blog/forums post, wiki page, short blurb, online book
        • But why do those searches have to be implicit to your location. I hate it when software tries to tell me what is best for me. Why not give the user the option to make searches meaningful to your location when he/she checks a very clearly and visible checkbox. Show an obvious message or coloured frame indicating that those results are to be used for a particular geographic context.

          Don't assume what the user wants... it never works.
        • If I want to search for something called "Los Angeles Store", I enter it with quotation marks.

          As for product/city names -- I guess "they" have to have a list of cities and popular products and "we", as product makers, have to call our products distinctively, so that the product name won't be confused with anything else.
        • It gives you a mixture. I'm in Santa Clara right now and I just Googled "Rancho San Antonio" (without quotation marks), which is the name of an open-space preserve in nearby Los Altos (I did this before reading this article, because I wanted to find a map of the trails there). At the top of the page are results for "rancho" in or near San Antonio, TX. But the actual search results give websites about the preserve, and I found what I was looking for.

          From the looks of the search results, one looking for a
    • I don't know, how frickin' hard would it be to type Los Angeles Store as opposed to letting the default search of "Store" go to the area you are actually geolocated in?
      • The point is if the keyword "Store" automatically adds 'local context', like "San Francisco" to your search, what hoops do you have to jump through to ensure that adding your own local context of "Los Angeles" is going to *eliminate* the "San Franciso".

        The last thing I want is to search for "Los Angelos Store" and get over half my results pointing at San Fransicso ANYWAYS. I get enough of that CRAP already searching for restaurants and other physical named locations.

        What if you want a store and you don't kn
    • Do you still hand-crank your horseless carriage because key ignition is for the lazy?

      (Sorry for the car analogy. I really couldn't help it. It's pathological to Slashdot, I think.)
    • >But what loop holes will I have to jump thru if I'm in SF and want to search for a store in LA? How frickin' hard is it to type in ... "San Fransisco Store" ... as opposed to just "Store"?

      How frickin' hard is it to type in ... "Los Angeles Store"? :P

    • 1. You have a quote from the article so clearly you RTFA, but your reply has a misspelled word that was in TFA portion which you quote so clearly you did not RTFA.

      2. Others reply to your quote which has the correct spelling of SF yet in their reply they misspell the same way so clearly they did not RTFA, but they did read your reply, but they did not read your quote.

      All in all San FranCISCO should be renamed San FranSISCO to prevent /. users from making presumptions as to if anyone really RTFA!
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:15PM (#15591176)
    Here we are, the conference agenda [], and the talk...

    4:30pm Panel: From Search to Eternity [Moderator: Chris Shipley (Guidewire Group), Kapenda Thomas (Jookster), David Sifry (Technorati), Jim Lanzone (, Leila Boujnane (Idee)]

    Search engines are the dominant interface for the Web today, and a huge force in driving economic activity online. What's next for search? It seems unlikely that we have reached the end-point of significant technical or business evolution in this incredibly active area.

    I can think of... one company that's 10^100 (a googol) times more likely to have something meaningful to say when it comes to "what's next for search", but which wasn't represented on this panel.

    Not that I'm naming names or anything. But who's missing from this panel?

  • The only advances in search that are important to me are advances that make it easier and faster to find what I'm looking for. I don't use search engines for the "experience" but rather to locate the sites that I do visit for the experience. The only relevant change that might improve search mentioned was trying to find better ways to understand user intent. Luckily, anyone web-savvy knows enough little tricks and tidbits to get their intent across to a search box in any normal situation (small but useful t
  • The future is spam (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:26PM (#15591257)
    Unless these companies get the ability to sue the "SEO companies" and others that spam them, they will just get cluttered to the point that nothing short of SkyNet will be able to be useful.
    • Track the submitting IP addresses, the URLs they submit, the domains they submit for, and the time interval involved. Possible signs of SEO spam would include....

      Lots of submits in a short amount of time from one IP address. Throttling/blocking can be used to thwart this.

      Lots of URL submits in a short amount of time directed at one domain from 2 or more different IP addresses. Blocking submits an be used to thwart this.

      Doesn't seem to be that hard to do....

      If the SEO firms are absolutely stupid, they wou
  • Company Execs: "Hello, hello, can you hear me? Hello? Hey, dudes, thanks for the information, very helpful. After analyzing the data you provided, we have calculated a fool-proof plan for winning the war. Here are your orders: eliminate the enemy. Good luck. Also, try to do better and please win. See ya."
  • Experts? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lbmouse ( 473316 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:28PM (#15591272) Homepage
    "A panel of search engine executives"

    Technorati? Idee? Jookster? That is not much representation for an expert panel. No offense, but I prefer to know what is stirring around in Larry's and Sergey's little noggins. At least throw in a lackey from one of the top three engines.
    • Re:Experts? (Score:3, Funny)

      by vertinox ( 846076 )
      That is not much representation for an expert panel. No offense, but I prefer to know what is stirring around in Larry's and Sergey's little noggins.

      Well... They invited them, but they were too busy actually working than going to pointless conferences. That and counting money.
  • I think internet search is not so bad right now, for humans. One thing which could really use some improvement is making it easier for computers to search, i.e., the semantic web []. As the wiki states, "Humans are capable of using the Web, say, to find the Swedish word for "car," to reserve a library book, or to search for the cheapest DVD and buy it. But if you asked a computer to do the same thing, it wouldn't know where to start." That sounds like a good plan to me. I often do lots of comparison shoppin
  • i'm just throwing this out there without doing any legwork on the subject, but my immediate thought would be to hire a large team of people to sort of moderate the search results for, as an example, google. they can look through the results for the larger searches, see which ones are just spammy or bombed results and which one are useful, and moderate the more useful ones up. i'm sure that there's already some sort of popularity algorithm in there somewhere, but most average people just won't wade through
    • by saddino ( 183491 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:44PM (#15591425)
      The free search agent CQ web [] uses this exact strategy, but programatically rather than via human modding. For example, if you search for "tom cruise" in Google via CQ web, it will ingest the content of the first 100 results and then use all that data to determine a baseline of statistically significant keywords and phrases (e.g. "mission impossible", "katie holmes", "chuch of scientology"). Then, CQ web re-evaluates the relevance of each result based on its "closeness" to the baseline. This generally moves spam pages out of the way and pushes up content rich sites. Plus, a quick glance of key words and phrases allows you to get "good results up front" by allowing you to decide what subcategory to dig into for more information.
      • that does sound good, but it is a bit different, as it is an agent you have to download and install. also, couldn't a quick-thinking spam-ish site just include other significant keywords in their page to boost their ranking on cq web?

        it does make me wonder if google implements something similar to this. the intrinsic problem is that the less-savvy masses will visit the spammy sites looking for the information and the algorithm will register them as popular because everyone visists them, thus boosting th
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:34PM (#15591325) Homepage Journal
    Disagreement among competitors is good: that's competition.
    Worry when they all agree: that's a cartel.
    • I'm suddenly reminded of this joke:

      Three prisoners were sitting in a U.S. jail, found guilty of "economic crimes" and were also comparing stories. The first one said, "I charged higher prices than my competitors, and I was found guilty of profiteering, monopolizing and exploiting consumers." The second one said, "I charged lower prices than my competitors, and I was found guilty of predatory pricing, cutthroat competing and under-charging." The third prisoner said, "I charged the same prices as my compet

      • Which reminds me that companies with actual competitors aren't found guilty of monopoly abuse, cartels, price fixing, or collusion. That hardly anyone is found guilty of those crimes even when they are guilty. That US jails are singularly empty of such people, while the markets are lousy with them.

        That joke isn't "funny because it's true". It's funny because monopolists have a lousy sense of humor, and a great sense of excuses.

        I'm reminded of the cartoon showing a robot working an assembly line, with its hu
  • Not much chance of seeing regexp searches, when they're all busy reenacting the search/portal mistakes of the past, and trying to push the boundaries of how much spam they can stuff into your results before their product becomes completely useless. Which is a shame, I just spent quite a while trying to do a particular search using lots of inclusions and exclusions, and hitting the maximum terms limit, when it would have been a trivial search if I could have used a regexp to match the urls I wanted.
    • Ah yes. Exactly what I was about to post. Smart searches that guess what I mean are nice when I'm looking for something but don't know quite what it is yet, but sometimes I do know exactly what I want. When I can quote some text from the site verbatim, or I'm looking for something that's difficult to express clearly, like info on something in the C language, regexps are exactly the thing I need.
      • The reason that google and others can search billions of pages in a few seconds is because it's all pre-indexed. Adding regex really messes that up.

        • I wonder how much use the feature would get though. Most of Google's (and other engine's) users probably wouldn't use it, thus lightening the load. Of course, I don't know if they even store that kind of full-text data.

          Regardless, I'm just wishing. I don't expect it to happen.
  • ummm... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Chilluhm ( 953659 )
    Google this: search engine + problems + solutions
  • What couldn't they agree on? I used to use that all the time to search for... oh, Supernova. hmmm. yeah.
  • I have always thought there was still much that could be done to enhance the user's desktop experience, but was unable to come up with much else.

    Guess I am now qualified for a position in such a panel.
  • Whenever I run out of ideas, I fire up Google and do a few searches to brainstorm. Maybe this would work for these guys?
  • what? The next big breakthrough in search technology is not going to come from a committee?

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard