Archive for January, 2011

Searching for a smarter internet

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Regular readers will know I’ve been absent for a few months, there are some boring reasons for that and some well, rather more interesting ones too.

The truth of it is that I’ve decided to put my money where my mouth has been for the last few years and joined our consumer business focusing directly on the potential and importance of “search” in our digital world.

It ticks all the boxes for me, is firmly rooted in all the “consumerisation” hyperbole I’ve been spouting, but most importantly because I firmly believe it’s a crucial area who’s time has yet to come. The delay in posts has simply been because I needed some time to “find my voice” in this brave new world.

For me, search is essentially the UI for the internet, the means by which we extract value from all that the internet has to offer a digital society.  The trouble is, like the web, it’s based on an evolving (and increasingly outdated) metaphor and as a result, I think we’ve all got a long way to go before we can really start to get all of the potential that is on offer.

searchwarningI was reminded of just how far we all have to go by this sign, posted in the ICT lab at my son’s (primary) school. Now look, I totally understand why this is there, but to me it’s more evidence that we’re missing something rather fundamental – why doesn’t the search engine _know_ that the people using it are aged between 5 and 11? Why isn’t it smart enough to understand that and adjust the results accordingly?

The answer of course is complicated, but within it lies a conversation I hope to explore with you about semantic language, user intent and relevance – fundamentally about how we can turn this blunt tool into something much sharper but without sacrificing our fundamental digital rights like privacy.

Search needs to be the best way to leverage the knowledge that exists on the internet, across multiple mediums and a vast ocean of data – this is no easy task but the good news is, I think we are well on the way.  We need to stop thinking about the task-oriented nature of the web, (remember HTML is built on a book metaphor) and start thinking about how we incorporate all aspects of our digital lives to create far better relevance – getting beyond “10 blue links” and into a far richer service that is truly representative of the internet and the potential it offers a modern society.

We’ll explore all of these areas over the coming months and I hope you’ll join me and get involved in the conversation.