Search is dead. And before you dismiss this claim as something only a crazy start-up would say, let me explain. It seems that two biggest search engines admit that the old, query-based search is going the way of a dodo. They have finally acknowledged, that combing through countless pages of raw data, of polluted and inaccurate results, in order to find anything valuable, is hardly a good user experience. That’s why the dinosaurs of the web turned to the new ways: Google with its “+1” button, and Bing – with Facebook’s “like” and increasing Facebook integration. Instead of working on algorithms that could automatically refine search, they turned to your social connections instead, to do the dirty work.
It’s not a fad, or a copycat stunt. Those are the biggest players of the online world, employing droves of analysts. They know which way the wind blows, and they don’t want it to blow in their face. They realize we’ve reached the breaking point of data congestion, where keyword search is unlikely to give you the best possible result. In fact, you can count yourself happy if you find anything of any use in first 10 results, as you can see in this great article. The results are broken by SEO tricks, positioning, content farms, rampant ads, promoted results, and finally – the explosion of data and proliferation of new, aggressive sites. Google and Microsoft know that. We know that as well, that’s exactly the thing we had in mind while drafting our last cartoon.
There is a well-known model, called DIKW, that describes the information status of the current world. It’s a 4-tier pyramid: Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom. Raw data is at the bottom, Wisdom comes on top. Every day we are flooded with data, but it takes intelligence, expertise and analysis to turn it into actual Wisdom. Items from higher levels of the pyramid are much more valuable (and rare) than the ones from the bottom.
The trusty old search engine is on the bottom of the pile, tough with recent changes both Google and Bing want to go higher up. So far they only outputted thousands of pages of raw data. That’s the old way of doing things – and it stopped working long time ago, unless you’re a journalist, researcher or any other data mining individual. But if you’re a regular user, just think about it: how many pages you visit often did you find through googling? Did you start to use Facebook after you typed “social network” into your search query? Did you find Gmail while looking for “free e-mail provider” on Yahoo! search? Did you start to play World of Warcraft after searching for “massively addicting electronic crack”?
Of course not.
In all three cases, a more powerful engine was at work – the engine of human-based recommendations. You’ve heard this and that from your friends, you’ve seen some snippets of information in the media, until you finally clicked “sign up”. At least that’s how it went for most of us. You didn’t have to comb through piles of raw Data, or even choose from stacks of Information. You have received a refined bit of Knowledge from your friends. And this Knowledge turned to Wisdom overtime (you realized that Facebook is boring, WoW is repetitive, and Gmail has its flaws).
If you go to a restaurant, you expect an end product, created through careful application of human work, intellect and expertise. You don’t expect a table full of raw ingredients, with a printed recipe on top.
Right now, the world is moving towards search-less and URL-less future. Soon, mobile devices will become the primary way of accessing the web. And they are definitely not search friendly. Lack of physical keyboard, small screen capable of displaying only several results at time – it all makes googling on a tablet hardly a prime experience. Operating systems and user interfaces change to facilitate gestures, touch, and clicks. But the keyboard-loving web seems slow to adapt. Or it seemed to be.
Adding social recommendations to search engines is just the first of many steps. It might help Google get out from the lowest level of our DIKW pyramid. We, as well as other internet users, applaud the decision, even though an additional button is not enough. They need to go further.
We wanted search to change for a long time now. It’s nice to know that Microsoft and Google agree it needs to be done!