At age 15 (IPO Sept 1998) Google Inc is barely old enough to qualify for a driver’s permit. But in Spring 2013 is has $50 Billion in revenue , is #55 on the Fortune 500 list and dominates the market it is in. Other great companies (i.e. Coca Cola, Cisco Systems, FedEx) who have been around much longer have yet to reach these levels.
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will likely admit “fortunate timing” plays a role, but also it is the company philosophy to large degree. Build complex mathematical model solutions that solve specific problems, integrate those solutions via layering and leveraging the output of one to be the input to another. The end result is a service where “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” by a large degree and has Google being used for 2 of every 3 Internet search queries (holds a steady 66% market share in recent years).
It’s easy to think of Google search has not changed much over the years, when viewing the Google.com homepage. It still consists of the logo, a single search box and dual buttons. Even the search result list (which now weaves in images, videos, Knowledge Graph summaries etc) is still dominated by straightforward text.
However behind the scenes Google search has changed plenty, in increasingly profound ways. Not to mention “How we interact” with it has evolved, including instant type ahead auto-suggestion, voice input, and mobile device touch screens. If Google’s ambitious evolution goals continue to pay off, in just a few years what we call Google Search could be a new kind of search engine. Below are sample “evolving features” that refine how Google Search works today and will RE-define the impact it has on our future daily life.
- Personalization – the more you use Google search, the more able it becomes in providing results that are consistent with your “personal individual” preferences.
“…By watching what you click on in search results, Google can learn that you favor particular sites. For example, if you often search and click on links from Amazon that appear in Google’s results, over time, Google learns that you really like Amazon. In reaction, it gives Amazon a ranking boost. That means you start seeing more Amazon listings, perhaps for searches where Amazon wasn’t showing up before.
The results are custom tailored for each individual. For example, let’s say someone else prefers Barnes & Nobles. Over time, Google learns that person likes Barnes & Noble. They begin to see even more Barnes & Nobles listings, rather than Amazon ones…” Search Engine Land Article of 12/4/2009
- Knowledge graph – the search engine itself is learning, or gaining “knowledge” based on all queries made. Based on what people search on and what results they click on common patterns are identified. The search engine better differentiates between a word and the significance of that word in context of cultural norms.
“…Consider the word “lassie”, a standard dictionary will likely provide this definition “a girl or young woman who is unmarried”. However a Google search provide a lot of first level results that contain articles, pictures, video clicks and overall bio information about “the fictional female collie dog character created by Eric Knight in a short story”
- Google Now– is where things start to really change because of mobile devices. A process where a “search result (known as a card)” is provided even though no specific query has been entered. Providing answers to questions it anticipates you might ask. The search engine essentially makes “natural deductions” by using the above features plus smartphone “meta data” including.
- Location – the mobile device has built in GPS providing real time location data
- Events – a person’s calendar will provide many specific references of events
- People – telephone calls, email’s, text messages and social site postings via mobile devices provide detailed insight as to who you typically communicate with
“…an excellent example is “Next Appointment”. Your mobile device knows the current time, via your calendar it knows the time and location of your next appointment, the GPS tells the system where you are located right now. By tapping into the available Google map system, it can determine the most likely route, current traffic conditions and automatically concludes when you should leave. It can “automatically” alert you, it is time to leave your current location to make the next appointment on time. You never even needed to check your watch to see what time it is.”
Opinions vary widely about whether these new features are a good thing or not – regardless the public market demands a constant stream of new innovation and capabilities, and technology can deliver. The challenge becomes do we still call it a “Search Engine” or start to call it something else?