Google UK organised an "open house" get-together yesterday which was entitled "The Science of Search : Thoughts on the Perfect Search Engine"; it turned out to be an informal presentation by Amit Singhal who joined Google back in 2000 and is one of four Google Fellows, a title bestowed upon him because of the fact that he rewrote the original Google search engine.
Although Mr Singhal spoke of his personal perspectives when it comes to search, past, present and future, one cannot ignore that he is the man in charge of Google's Search Algorithm, one which is used by tens of millions of users worldwide.
So while the presentation was a succinct & intimate description of his personal journey in the world of search, it is one which sheds some light on where Google will be heading in the next few years. Here's what I learnt during the 90 minutes presentation.
(1) MIDs are the new desktops
MIDs, a term coined by Intel and Microsoft, describe mobile internet devices, which might include smartphones, tablets and laptops, form factors which all share the fact that they are personal and mobile.
Singhal made it crystal clear that Google considers the mobile segment to be of utmost importance, so much so that Google may well be following Apple's footsteps by dedicating more resources in this area.
Ultimately, more search will be carried out by users in the future from their MIDs and just like my laptop is now my desktop, MIDs may completely replace desktops at some point in time.
(2) Privacy (as we know it) will be dead
The penalty for implementing privacy measures in Google is currently big. You can of course choose to do it by disabling your search history and exert granular control on ALL Google services that you use. However, Google makes it impossibly attractive to leave everything on "default" and just enjoy the ride. Remember, Google provides you with very useful free products (Youtube, Gmail etc), all of which are paid for by advertisers who pay extra for the ability to serve the "right" adverts to the right audience.
(3) Voice and Language is the next frontier
Singhal demoed live voice search on the Google Nexus One handset during his presentation & came across a slight glitch when the network signal went down but reappeared afterwards. It exemplifies one of the many obstacles towards seamless voice and language search. Realtime voice search across languages with automated translations is one hell of a difficult task for any machine, let alone a mobile phone that must manage its power consumption, has limited storage and limited access to other computers.
(4) Search the future or the death of search serendipity
"Search without Searches" was the next dream that Singhal wants to reach for; the other five that he has already worked on being search beyond text & language, search that knows the searcher, the meaning of words and the ability to search the present. Now predictive searching appears to be what lies ahead of us.
To some extent, this is what we get when you start typing in Google's search field with a list of potential queries automatically popping up. Singhal though wants to go further ahead and anticipate what you **might** want to search (and do things out of it).
This is both a potential minefield and an absolute goldmine for advertisers and users alike; the downside of which may well be the death of serendipity, which is the joy of discovering new things while searching online.