Search Singularity

This week’s Google Search event has provide some interesting announcements as to the future of search.  Google’s real-time search is another step towards an immediate index of what is happening in the world being at your fingertips.  The addition to mobile search by voice, location and sight brings immediate results with you anywhere.  These technologies are in the infancy but provide a peek into the future.  Who would have thought that search engines, specifically Google, would have advanced so much in the past 10 years?  Immediate answers to any query imaginable has all kinds of ramifications to those searching and those trying to be found.

First, for those trying to be found, immediacy is good.  However, it requires real-time information going into the system to be seen in the results.  This has the most impact on news and entertainment sites but I see other sites finding use for this as the technology becomes more familiar.  The obvious impacts on website owners are to provide the content to be included in real-time searches.  Designing and creating a site’s architecture will become that much more important, from good markup to designing URL’s to providing notifications or using push technology.

For searchers, it appears all is good news.  More information in your hands immediately.  Finding answers through search engines has already put information to any question at the fingertips of a generation that was not available or even fathomable in the past.  While it increases the knowledge of the citizenry, it also becomes a crutch.  What does anyone know without access to Google?

Plenty has been written about the search engine generation and the affects on our society.  Lately I’ve been thinking about the Google index and position in our world.  Has it become so valuable that is should become the single index for the world?  To me there is no doubt that the engineers working at Google are some of the brightest minds on the planet when it comes to information cataloguing.  Not only is this seen in the quality of their index and infrastructure, but in the ideas they come up with for new things to index, return results or ways to search as in this week’s announcements.

In today’s world, a product developed by a private company could never be turned over to the public.  I wonder about having rival indexes and search engines to compete against each other, especially when one receives 90% of the traffic.  A library does not have two competing indexes, with different features and algorithms, for users to choose.  Multiple white and yellow page listings only confuse customers, especially if they are not equal and complete.

It will be interesting to see if in the future a single index will be established for anyone to search against, and the search engines just being a front end for searches and advertising.  Maintaining the index would be a collaborative effort amongst a consortium of subsidiaries of the search companies.  Right now Google’s index is one of their competitive advantages, so I don’t see them giving that up.  A single index, though, based on Google’s, does make sense in the future when the competition over indexing everything has run its course.