Home Search 2.0 – What’s Next?

Search 2.0 – What’s Next?

Written by Emre Sokullu and edited by Richard

You may feel relatively satisfied with the current search offerings of Google, Yahoo,
Ask and MSN. Search today is undoubtedly much better than what it was in the second half
of the 1990’s. But Internet search is still in its infancy and there’s much room for
improvement. Moreover, the super high valuation of Google on NASDAQ pushes investors and
researchers to find better search solutions – to be The Next Big Thing. And these
wannabes are not only working on discovering better indexing techniques, they’re
exploring new horizons like vertical engines, meaning-based search, intent-driven search,
new clustering methods, and much more. In this post, we look into latest trends in the
search industry.

We have positioned the latest search trends into 3 main categories:

  • UI Enhancements
  • Technology Enhancements
  • Approach Enhancements (Vertical Engines)

UI Enhancements


Snap promises a better
interface for search, using the latest advancements in browsers and AJAX technology.
Although there were earlier, similar implementations, preview powered search is
perhaps the biggest innovation of Snap. With Snap’s preview powered search, you don’t
necessarily need to visit the site to see if it satisfies your needs – you can see a
dynamically loaded screenshot in the right side of your window.

According to a Microsoft study, users
spend 11 minutes on a typical search – so potentially Snap can radically shorten this
time. Another benefit is that it allows you browse the search results with a few key
strokes, which is another big usability enhancement. However it’s worth noting that Snap
is slow to process searches as a result, because there’s too much Javascript and it’s too
heavy for most modern browsers and hardware. Also, from a technology point of view, Snap
doesn’t have much to offer – it uses Ask’s existing technology. However they have
introduced a power of masses approach with options for “This page is Junk” and
“This page is Perfect”.

Snap’s real time query recommendation is also a little similar to an idea once tested
at Google Labs. All in all, Snap doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but it’s a good
mashup of some of the innovative ideas in search that we’ve seen in the last few


SearchMash is actually a
Google site, to test their latest search innovations. SearchMash follows the basic Google
principle – it’s cutting-edge, but still plain and simple. When you do a typical web
search, you also see image, blog, video and Wikipedia results in the right side of the
screen. And there’s absolutely no noticeable speed loss, thanks to AJAX. Basically it is
a shortcut to reach all the information you need.

The best innovation of SearchMash is perhaps the “More web results” bar. I strongly
recommend Google find a way to implement it into their default engine immediately. It
makes it much easier to browse the search results. When you need more information, simply
click on “More web results” and new results appear at the bottom – enabling you to
continue scrolling down on the same page, instead of opening a new page. SearchMash also
allows you to give feedback about the results; this may be a sign of the introduction of
power of masses into Google Search.

All in all, SearchMash shows that while Google continues to keep itself simple, it
also has absolutely no intention of giving way on the innovation front to upcomers. All
of the new features in SearchMash are discussed on their About page.


Live.com, the new internet
initiative of Microsoft, had many innovative ideas at the beginning. However as Vista’s
official release date gets closer, it has become a much more traditional search
engine. Besides the technology advances in their algorithms, which Microsoft hopes
will enable it to compete with Google, there are/were many UI enhancements as well. There
used to be, for example, an infinite scrollbar in Live.com – but this seems to have been
removed for the final public release.

Most innovations in the image search interface have been kept though – the tiered
zooming feature is the most blatant one. Live’s Image Search offers seamless user
experience enhancements. The infinite scrollbar functionality fits very well and saves
you from the hassle of clicking and waiting. And Scratchpad functionality allows you to
pick your favourites and compare them smoothly.

Overall we can conclude that Live’s interface, when compared to old MSN and Microsoft
sites, got more simple and Google-like.

Technology Advancements

Search for
Meaning by Hakia

Hakia’s motto is “Search for
Meaning”. Founded by seasoned nuclear scientist Riza Berkan, Hakia has
raised more than $30M so far, mostly from European private investors. With Hakia you
don’t search keywords, instead you directly ask questions to the search engine. Hakia
makes deep semantic analysis on the pages they crawl. It introduces a new mosaic-like
indexing method called QDEX (Query Detection and Extraction).
Despite all these nice promises, currently Hakia does not always return the correct
results. However they’re still in public alpha release and the company is set to debut
its full operations in Jan, 2007. After this date, we will have a better chance to judge
Hakia’s capabilities. Note that Hakia works on top of Microsoft technologies.

Also see Read/WriteWeb’s
recent post reviewing Hakia.

Clustered Search of Vivisimo and Ask

Neither Vivisimo nor Ask are new companies. Both offer clustered search, which means
fragmenting the results of your query so that users can see related terms and go deeper
or broader in their data mining. Vivisimo was the first to offer it and it’s very useful
in cases where you are researching a topic that you’re completely new to. Ask’s approach
is less dense than Vivisimo’s and is somehow similar to Live’s related results feature.
But as stated above, clustered search is probably not something you’ll need all the time
– it’s more a side feature that may be helpful in some cases.

Read/WriteWeb profiled
Ask last month.

Intent-Driven Search by Yahoo!

This is a brilliant idea.
Yahoo’s research project Mindset brings you results according to
your search purposes. For instance, when you enter “Rolex Watches” in the search box, you
may be willing to buy a Rolex Watch or make an encyclopedic research about the company.
Yahoo’s intent-driven search allows you to specify your intent and get the most relevant

Note that intent-driven search is still in a very early phase, but it’s very promising
for mainstream users.

Google’s Ori Alon

In April this year, Google bought a patented technology that allows them to show
related terms after your query. For example, if you search information on the War of
Independence, this technology gives you a list of related words – like Etzel, Palmach,
Ben-Gurion. The patent was taken by an Israeli phD studying in Australia. Google has not
released this feature yet on Google or SearchMash, but it is expected to be shown soon.
Also, it is rumored that Microsoft and Yahoo were also after this patent, but Google won
the race.

Del.icio.us and Power of Masses

You may ask, what is del.icio.us doing in between all these
search sites – isn’t it just a bookmarking system? Well, the answer is both yes and no.
While it’s true that it’s a bookmarking site, Yahoo probably didn’t buy them just for
bookmarking. Actually del.icio.us is also a great tool that empowers the search results
of any search engine. Because when you bookmark a site, this indicates the site is a
useful resource – so its “pagerank” should be increased. In other words, del.icio.us can
actually be used as a search engine, fueled by the power of masses principle. And
del.icio.us is not alone in this – Wink and Snap are also trying to use the power of masses
in their search offerings.

Supposedly, Google also uses some sort of power of masses with their Personalized
Search and Google Toolbar offerings.

NLP (Natural Language Processing) powered Powerset

While still in stealth mode,
Powerset has already
$12.5M in pre-money valuation from several venture capital companies and angel
investors like Reid Hoffman, Luke Nosek and early Googlers Aydin Senkut and Zain Khan.
The difference between Powerset and the traditional search engines is that while typical
search engines like Google and Yahoo don’t take into account stopwords (by, after, the,
etc), stopwords are a very important part of the engine for Powerset. Why? Because
Powerset relies on a semantic capability that can be triggered by using these stopwords.
So while the “book by children” and “book for children” queries return exactly the same
results in Google, Powerset evaluates them separately and somehow cares about your
stopwords as well.

Personalized Search

Palo Alto based Collarity is a very new company
entering into the personalized search area. The question that pushed them into this
challenge is: “Why are your search results exactly the same as the next person’s search
results?” This is not a very new idea – Google (with its Kaltix acquisition in 2003) and
others already offer this feature, albeit weakly. However Collarity seems very strong
with their innovative interface (Collarity Slider), outsourced approach (Collarity
Compass) and promising technology.

Social Search

Read/WriteWeb has covered the area of social search very thoroughly already
in twoarticles in July by
Ebrahim Ezzy. Two good examples are Eurekster’s Swicki and Rollyo. Swicki is a community-driven search engine that allows
users to create deep, focused searches on a specific niche – and ‘learns’ from its
community. Rollyo allows users to create and publish
their own personal search engines, based on websites they decide to include in their

Image Search

Image Search has been around for a very long time, but to be frank it’s still very
primitive. What most image search engines do is just look for text around images and
examine the image tags.

Riya was the first to introduce advanced face recognition
technologies in image search. This obviously requires a lot of computing power and just
because of this, Riya’s weekly burnrate is supposedly over $100K. Co-founded by web 1.0
veteran Munjal Shah and face recognition gurus Burak Gokturk and Azhar Khan, Riya is now
entering a whole new space – “search by likeness” with like.com. This may come in very
handy, for example when you try to find a watch that is similar to the one you have a
digital photo of. That’s why Riya is expected to make partnership deals with, or get
acquired by, e-commerce companies like Amazon and eBay. It’s worth noting that Riya was
once in acquisition negotiations with Google, but this never happened – and Google ended
up acquiring another face recognition company, Neven Vision. So we can conclude that
Google is pursuing this technology very closely!

Approach Enhancements (Vertical Search)

Vertical search is a relatively new discipline in search. Basically, vertical engines
look up a very limited subset of the internet – so they are more efficient than generic
search engines. Because their search area is not so broad, they can adapt themselves for
the specific needs and common points of their area of focus. We won’t go in too much
detail about vertical search engines, as it has already been covered in a recent
article in Read/WriteWeb. But we can categorize the major vertical engines this way:

  • Jobs: SimplyHired.com Indeed.com, Bixee.com (India), Eluta.ca (Canada),
    Recruit.net (Hong Kong)
  • Travel: Sidestep.com, Kayak.com, Mobissimo.com
  • Health: Amniota.com, CloserLookSearch.com, GenieKnows.com, Healia.com,
    Healthline.com, Kosmix.com, MammaHealth.com, Google Health
  • Classifieds: Edgeio.com, Oodle.com
  • Blogs: Technorati, Bloglines, Blogger Search, Sphere, Feedster
  • Source Code: Koders.com, Krugle, Google Code


The innovation in search does not stop and there’s much to look forward to in the
search space. What’s more, Google and Yahoo search APIs and the open source Nutch and
DMOZ projects allow anyone to try out new ideas. Nutch, supported by Yahoo and shielded under
Apache Software
Foundation, is providing a free global search engine. DMOZ gives you a very large open source web directory edited
by volunteers.

Google will have a hard time competing not only its big adversaries like Microsoft,
Yahoo and Ask – but also the ambitious startups that are opening new dimensions and
bringing forth new approaches. We will probably hear of acquisitions in this space as

We may not have covered all the promising new search offerings here, so please let us
know your feedback in the comments below. Also let us know which of the above approaches
sounds the most promising to you – and why.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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