Jun 1, 2007

What the heck is Universal Search Anyway?

On May 16th, Google announced the release of Universal Search. As the story goes, back in 2001 - CEO Eric Schmidt asked for a brainstorm of a few "splashy" ideas in search. Marrissa Mayer created a few mock ups - one of which was the prototype for Universal Search. ' It was a sample search results page for Britney Spears that, in addition to web results, also had news, images, and groups results right on the same page. Now that concept has morphed into a pretty dynamic SERP with an interesting value proposition for users. A few examples from Google include -these query terms : steve jobs , darth vader , nosferatu .

While Universal Search is interesting, it's certainly not a new concept. According to Dan Dodge, Alta vista introduced a similar concept over Ten years ago (1997) - integrating multi-media search results as part of regular text search results. Very similar to what Google is today calling Universal Search. At the time, AltaVista returned regular Algo results along with photos, videos, audio, and news. After a brief trial period the idea was scrapped because it didn't quite catch on with users.

At the time, users seemed to prefer Algo Results (10 Blue Links), and may have felt that the other features were "noise" or unnecessary distractions. When presented with all these results they consistently clicked on the text results and ignored the photos, videos, audio. They sometimes clicked on the News results. The users wanted deeper, faster, more relevant text results.

I'm going to hypothesize that - users preferred to keep the User Experience for Portals and Search Engines different. One thing Universal Search definitely does - is present a portal like look and feel. Also, performance was definitely an issue back in the 90's - and Universal Search would have severely impacted page load times.

Microsoft and Yahoo already offer a similar value proposition. Microsoft has Imagine Live Search which is a new experimental search engine from Windows Live. Ask has Ask X, and Yahoo has it's Alpha offering. All of these SERPs offer a mixture of results all on the same page.

Will "Universal Search" become popular with users? How will Search Engines make money with this SERP - I don't see any prominent sponsored links? What will be the criteria for ranking vertical search features vs. algo weblinks on SERPs.

We'll just have to wait and see...............

Jobs and Gates Go 1:1

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs talk about the tech world, what the future holds—and their rivalry. Nobody knew quite what to expect when, Gates and Jobs hooked up to do a joint interview at the recent All Things Digital Conference. What transpired makes for pleasant reading - especially for anyone who has followed the path's of these two great pioneers.

One thing that really intrigued me is the flow of their conversation - you could almost imagine Gates finishing off Steve Jobs sentences - and vice-versa. Truth be told, they probably have more in common than most of their peers and colleagues. Great stuff - worth reading.