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Visualization and search

Searching and finding useful information really shouldn’t be as difficult as it is today. When Google first appeared, it introduced new expectations of search. Instead of categorical Yahoo search or only marginally effective Lycos search results, users now expected fast and relevant responses to queries. And so things have stayed. I’m sure Google has been very aggressive in improving search results behind the scenes, but my experience of searching is almost identical to what it was in early 2000. Search innovation has been limited. This is partly due to the sheer complexity of language and matching results to sometimes undeclared intentions. While Berners Lee appears on the scene occasionally to declare the need for the semantic web, he soon fades and for most of us, search continues as it was.

When Google purchased Trendalyzer, there was an expectation that search would now become more visual – providing not just the results, but an indication of patterns, trends, and related factors. Not much has happened since then. At least, not much that I’ve experienced in my search habits. WolframAlpha is now receiving attention (though it hasn’t launched) as a tool to assist in making sense of complex data. And Google has revived lagging search innovation by adding public data to its results (only American states/counties to date). Other novel declarations of new search engines (cuil and a9 come to mind) haven’t made much of an impact. Perhaps Google has attained Microsoft status: finding it difficult to innovate and having grown so prominent that those who are innovating are unable to compete.


  1. Chris Lott wrote:

    I wonder if it’s Google becoming complacent or just that pagerank and improvement of results as Google pursued (and still pursues) it is an incremental change while shifting the whole model to more associative, visual, faceted– something other than simply categorical and quantifiable by attention– is a transformation and so is simply a much harder nut to crack?

    Or perhaps a bit of both.

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  2. JRA wrote:

    Remember Google is good… but “top” results will be biased based on companies and organizations that pay for Google listings. Google ranks by click / “popularity” and paying customers. At least, last time I researched the subject.

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink