DLD13: Next Generation Search

DLD13 Conference

Wolf Garbe (FAROO), Philip Inghelbrecht (Rockmelt) and Albert Wenger (Union Square Ventures) are discussing “Next Generation Search” at DLD13, moderated by Henry Blodget (Business Insider). Free Press Photo © Hubert Burda Media / picture alliance / Jan Haas.

While originally I was to talk about distributed search (you can see the slides here), our moderator suggested to focus on the recent developments of the big search brands instead.

So, what can we expect from the future of search?

From text to facts
Search will move from conventional text search towards understanding and combining facts.
Today’s search engines do a plain text search, returning links to documents. Future search will be able to identify entities (locations, dates, persons, companies, products). It then can use all known properties of those entities (price, date of birth, coordinates …), even if they are not stated in the current document.
This is the Semantic search we have been promised for quite some time. But that’s not the end. Combining facts scattered over different documents, deduction und predicate logic allows the search engine to come up with answers, which are not contained in any of the indexed documents, perhaps even not yet known to mankind.
Search assistants will do call backs to the user to clarify ambiguity, and automatically initiate follow up queries to gather, compare and combine additional information.

Implicit search
If we thinking of search today we have that search box in mind, where we type our keywords in. But tomorrow that will be dominated by implicit search.
Search engines, that see what we see (Google Glass), read what we read, and hear what we hear (Mindmeld). Which know our location, our interests, habits through the day, our calendar, and our personal preferences. Which come up automatically with the contextual information and warnings before we even know we will need that answer.
Imagine you are talking to somebody and you are presented his/her profile and calendar in your augmented reality glasses or you look at a product in a shop, and you are presented with information and price comparisons.

Augmented data
Today search engines are indexing existing documents. But in the future, search engines will control a global net of sensors, which for the first time also creates huge streams of additional data to be indexed.
This can be images and videos from augmented reality glasses, user location data from moving people and cars, usage data from video sites and web site statistics. Early forerunners might be Google Now & Google Goggles integrated into Google Glasses or a crowd sourced Streetview.
And more and more data which are isolated today will be incorporated to search: Crime and pollution data, medical records and income statistics, economics data, stock and weather data and much more.
This brings search closer to the real world. Those augmented date combined with reasoning, correlation, early-warning and prediction technologies will let pale the Delphic Sibyl.

Decentralization has been the foundation of the Internet. It fostered diversity and freedom of information. FAROO focuses on the decentralization of the search infrastructure.
But to the same extend the decentralization of data is important. A single instance owning and controlling the world’s data is infeasible and undesirable. With decentralized data sources like Google Glass and Smartphone GPS the creation and collection of data becomes decentralized. And perhaps the more sophisticated processing of data will be carried out in a worldwide distributed artificial brain.

Interoperability and ownership of data
People want more and more data to be integrated und utilized for search. They want to simplify their life. Flight data, hotel data, weather data, event data, recommendation, satisfaction and price data and much more.
Collecting, normalizing organizing and updating data is complex and comes with cost. But also integrating data, creating a unified marketplace and providing search has a price. So while the user really wants and needs the integration, data owner want to stay in control of the data and their monetization models.
We need not only to solve complexity and interoperability of data but also the interoperability of business models and monetization streams. Every party involved needs to be recompensated fairly. Even for relatively simple cases like a single music catalog, we had to wait for Apple to persuade all the market participants to agree to a user friendly model. The music is still owned by several labels, but there is a unified search and payment option available, and this made online music a success story.
The same will happen for search, companies pioneering a fair exchange model will win, while others staying isolated become obsolete.

Transparency, openness and neutrality
While the integration of data from many sources is desirable, it is important to prevent discrimination.
Sources shouldn’t be blocked or biased in ranking, nor search engines blocked or confronted with unreasonable access conditions.
Full integration is possible already today in web search, app stores and music catalogues.
This is a win-win model with more simplicity, diversity, transparency and more business. Let’s do it for the remaining data sources too.

Smart assistants
Just an example: Coordinating travel, hotel, meetings, events from different data sources, with multiple people and their calendars involved, reacting on flight delays and changing prices while giving the user a choice with different scenarios is possible only with a fully bidirectional data integration.
The user just can’t enter the same data again and again for different providers and different scenarios and fighting with different layouts.
Implicit search is only possible when data can flow freely and be automatically processed, without manual interaction required.
On the long run only those businesses can be only successful which adapt to the needs of the user. He wants to simplify his life and outsource tasks to smart assistant systems, which are the successors of today web search and much more.

Some echo in the press:
Focus: Die Zukunft der Internetsuche
Meedia: Suchexperten über die Zukunft von Search Engines
Futurezone: 6 Trends, die die Tech-Konferenz DLD aufzeigt
digital:next: DLD: Welche Websuche wird ein Hit?
internet world: Die nächste Generation der Suche
Deutschlandradio Kultur: Was tun mit Big Data?