Does Social Search Make Any Sense?
by Idris Mootee
A friend of mine visited me from Japan and our conversation was around mobile search, since Apple’s acquisition of Siri, a company that makes voice-operated personal assistant app for the iPhone, people wonder what’s Apple intent was. This move has big implications for the future of mobile search and is just a first step into the game.
This space is where Google is not winning as generalized search is not working and so people have to resort to specialized apps. It can be super-local for hyper-specialized and need-based. It is more than just getting information but getting some jobs done. It is two steps within minutes versus most online search is the first step. Whether it is about finding a nearby pub, getting a movie ticket or getting a dinner reservation through OpenTable, context is crucial. So business model is pretty much based around affiliate commissions from partners.
There are still a lot of usability issues to solve and there is little tolerance to sifting through irrelevant search results and they include: How to create clear quick access action buttons? How do you combine motion and gestures into the usability language? How to use limited real estate particular there are a lot of information to display? How to meet the user’s needs quickly? He or she has less than 3 minutes to get what they want. How to deal with user mistakes? It is not just a backward button?
Is social search the answer? I don’t know and I am not sure. There are apps that go out there and search for rankings and aggregate them and translate them into usable data. I think there are some apps that simply go through social networks and find out what people are recommending. Adding social layers onto search results is one option but I don’t think it is an effective solution. I am not sure I know what is the best filtering technique? I think location matters. What people are tweeting is often irrelevant. Searching for ‘likes’ in Facebook can’t be too useful. We are still a few years away from AI search.
Researchers at IBM have been working on a machine called Watson that can sift through a terabyte of data and crank out answers to complicated questions in a few seconds. A version of the software that runs Watson could reside on a doctor’s tablet computer in 3-5 years, analyzing test results to proffer a diagnosis, according to Dave Ferrucci, a senior manager at IBM.
Smartphones are getting more prevalent and powerful enough to handle complex tasks. More than 70% of Americans will own a smartphone by the end of 2013 and mobile tablets sport more powerful processors that let users run complex artificial intelligence apps on them. AI will be available at the palm of your hands… in no more that 2 -3 years I hope.
In the meantime, Google will be buying up anything that helps the to colonized the mobile space. Anytime you need to use any of these services on your Android devices, you need to log into your Google account. That means all your location history, browsing history, and preferences are available for Google to use so that they can show you send advertisements your way.
Idris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.