John is running a search panel with Steve Berkowitz, Udi Manber, Louis Monier, Christopher Payne, and Jeff Weiner. Google was a no-show.

Q: Search has gone (in the last few weeks) from a few search terms in a CLI style interface to something much more complicated. When will search become more of a conversation?

A: Udi often makes an analogy to music. If music had been invented when the web was, we'd all be playing one string instruments. We need evolution and skills and learning on the web yet. It'll take time. Need more powerful tools--and they're coming.

A: Other types of searching will require a more complex experience, BUT you can't train users. You need better tools.

Q: Ask, Snap, and A9 are all paying attention to search history. That's a longer conversation with the user. What have you learned?

A: It's too soon to tell, but Udi finds it very useful. It helps his memory.

A: Newsbot (MSN) does implicit personalization (recommendations).

Q: Search is big because it's the big money maker--it "saved the Internet's bacon" so to speak. Is that it for the business model? What's next?

A: The success of search is the ability to answer questions. We need to go after under-served markets--like local. If you do and do it well, the advertisers will come.

A: Jeff says that coverage is increasing, people are searching more intensely, more merchants are coming on-line, ad matching is getting better, and so on. Look at local, it's a $100 billion market. And 0.4% of it is on-line. As people shift their behavior, we'll take advantage of that. Broadband keeps computers on-line and that helps to power the change. But we need to help the merchants on-line and create better technology.

Q: When's Yahoo gonna monetize RSS?

A: No specific date, but we're going there.

A: Sponsored matches don't annoy the users and that's a big lesson to learn.

Q: What do you think of blogs and RSS? Good, bad, etc?

A: Jeff [Yahoo] thinks it's great. It's instant feedback. Beta launches get us feedback via blogs. And bloggers get this stuff.

Q: Can that be part of a ranking algorithm?

A: You have to learn from that. It's about authority. The hubs and authorities matter. The feedback loop is very important and search is helping that.

Q: There's a theory that really really good search would make eBay go away.

A: [From eBay] No. People come to eBay from search engines but there a lot of other ways and many reasons they go to eBay. But eBay provides feedback, resolution, trust, payment, etc.

Q: But search engines are becoming eCommerce sites.

A: eBay has a big community and many developers and it's fast. They're already very Web 2.0. There's more to it than just traffic.

Q: Google is getting into books (Google print just announced). Why did Amazon start a search engine?

A: [Udi] Search is important technology. He searches MedLine for medical info, not A9.

Q: [To everyone] What's the next hard problem in search that you want to fix and are working on?

A: [From Microsoft] Desktop search. Information is siloed. That stuff is harder to find than what's on the web. LookOut is a good example of working on that. Corporate intranets, inside books, etc. Personalization is hard too.

A: Udi wants context and searching your own information. There's context to everything. "Where's the beach?" is something we can't answer today. Need to know more about the user.

A: We need to get that 85% of the data that we don't reach yet, including desktop search. Structured databases aren't often indexed on the web. Open it up.

A: Jeff says context, desktop, etc. But we think about it based on the user's intention and helping them complete tasks. Intention matters a lot. Users search for a reason--they want to do something. But we need implicit personalization, collaborative filtering, and so on. Tivo is a big, live personalization lab for explicit stuff. Vertical searches (click the tab) is a good signal to intent. But the UI is going to need a lot of work. How do users interact with all this stuff that'll be searchable?

A: eBay has been hearing about personalization for a long time and thinks it's very hard (or we'd have it already). Something simple we need to do is guide the user in a search dialog.

Q: Snap tries to do some of that. Have you guys seen it? What do you think?

A: [Microsoft] I think it has a lot of great ideas and shows some new things we can do with the UI and behavior information.

Q: Google has kept their UI. Can that stand?

A: [Udi] Google needs to adjust and expand.

Q: Search has a cultural element. You can dig up dirt on anyone. Job background checks, etc. Your life is altered by this. Do you think about that?

A: Jeff [Yahoo] says you have to think about all the users, advertisers, and all the audiences. You need compassion for these folks. When this stuff becomes global, what's that mean?

A: Responsibility goes with this.

Audience Questions

Q: Esther asks about health care. Having your medical record factored into it would be great, but there's a bit privacy issue. What do you think about this? Getting records on-line.

A: Not sure if that stuff should be on-line. It's a very complex subject. Look at how long it took to get people to do credit cards on-line?

A: [Udi] on the flip-side, you can sometimes discern health trends by looking at search logs.

Q: Andy Beal asks about relevancy changes. How do we get beyond just using link strength?

A: Jeff [Yahoo] says looking at user satisfaction and time spent. We also need to look at something like playlists. PageRank is a self-fulfilling popularity contest. You need to tap individual authorities and see what they think is right.

A: The web is a big social network, so authority is important. But when you factor in personal preferences, it gets really good. But it's gonna take a lot of time.

Q: Bob Wyman asks says... We've been talking about searching the past. But what about searching in the future. Alerts. Saved searches and such.

A: Udi says that A9 has a "discover" feature that takes your history and compares it with others to suggest interesting new sites to you.

A: Jeff says that we have to capture real-time data better--conversations, whiteboard diagrams, etc.

Q: Scott Rafer [Feedster] is glad to hear about folks using the Blogsphere for feedback. How do you search the blogs?

A: Jeff says we use internal tools and the public search RSS engines.

A: Microsoft brought people in person.

Q: [From Canada] Since it's pointless to train users, why are we building more complex interfaces.

A: [eBay] clarifying that we need dialog and more query analysis smarts, not trying to teach the users how to search.

A: We need the user's intent. We need more info.

John notes that less than 1% of users use the advanced search features.

Q: On PPC advertising. Does personalization mess up PPC or complicate it?

A: Jeff says it's in beta, but since we own both the search and the ad engines, we can figure that stuff out while testing it. We can talk to the advertisers and the users both.

Q: Is this going to change TV?

Various answers. Time is up.

See Also: My Web 2.0 post archive for coverage of all the other sessions I attended.

Posted by jzawodn at October 06, 2004 05:26 PM

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