August 11, 2012

4 Things To Expect From Google Search One Year From Now (Based On Recent Updates)

In a blog post this week, Google promised us the "search engine of the future" when it unveiled new improvements like the expanded Knowledge Graph that will be available world-wide, Gmail results on google.com, and an updated Google Search for iPhone/iPad that talks to you (just like Siri). But amidst all the publicity surrounding these major improvements, everyone's overlooked one thing. These updates are not the "search engine of the future." These updates are just "baby step[s]" according to Google. This made us wonder, what is Google's vision for the future of search? And what hints do these and other recent improvements offer us about Google's grand plan?

The Daily Google has extensively covered the company's grand plan for unification of all its services. This post merely is just about search.

1. Facts


The Knowledge Graph has been spreading across Google Search like wildfire. It started slow, with a few direct answers in desktop search on google.com. Then came the Knowledge Graph box to the right of your desktop search results. Then the Knowledge Graph spread to mobile. But this is still only the beginning of what the Knowledge Graph will bring. Google is already experimenting with enhancements like the Knowledge Graph carousel at the top of search results that shows a larger list of suggested people, places, and products.

But despite being rolled out to every English-speaking country in the world, the Knowledge Graph still only shows up in a small percentage of searches. It has 500 million entities and 3.5 billion connections between them, but that's only peanuts compared to what Google can do. Expect to see the Knowledge Graph box show up for more and more searches, including complex questions that up until now only Wolfram Alpha could handle.

2. Personalized Results


Another area of improvement will be personalized results. Google's been personalizing results based on search history for many years. More recently, they've started showing personalized results for websites and images that you or your Google+ friends have +1'd. But this week, the search results got more personal than ever before by including results from Gmail. Right now, this feature will only show basic email results on the right-hand side or a list of your upcoming flights if you type in "my flights". But in the future, Google can scan your Gmail for restaurant reservations through OpenTable. They can access your Google Calendar for upcoming appointments. They can scan your YouTube likes and favorites. And much more. Google can show all of these as part of your personalized search results right on google.com, desktop or mobile.

3. Voice


This one goes both ways and requires little explanation. Android 4.1 Jelly Bean has an embedded personal assistant. You can ask her questions, and she will speak answers back to you (much like Apple's Siri). Google also recently launched a new iOS app for iPhone and iPad that will let anyone search by voice, and, if direct answers are available, the app will speak the results back to you. Google has also offered voice search on desktop, if you are using Chrome browser. The trend is clear. 1 year from now, every device that can handle google search (including laptops, desktops, smartphones (Android, iOS, & Windows Phone), tablets, and Google TVs) will listen and speak to you.

4. Results Before You Search


This one has the least supporting evidence but shows the most promise. While the Knowledge Graph, voice search, and personalized results have rolled out to tens of millions of users across many devices, Google Now is only officially available on the Nexus 7 and the Galaxy Nexus. It is the only Google service at the moment that provides search results before you search. That's all the concrete evidence we have that Google wants this to be the future of search. But several Google executives, including Eric Schmidt himself, said that their vision of the future of search is your device knowing who you are, where you've been, where you're going, what you like, and based on that, offering you suggestions.

It's still the early days for this vision. But within a year, I at least expect to see the Google Now functionality become more popular through the proliferation of Android Jelly Bean. There is also a good chance that some form of Google Now will make it to the iPhone and iPad. It's also very likely that Google Now, or at least parts of it, will make it to the desktop. This could be via Google's websites or through its Chrome browser. For instance, Google knows I have an appointment in an hour. I open up Chrome to do some last minute web surfing, and Google gently warns me that, due to traffic, I should leave in 5 minutes to make it there on time. Similarly, if I'm using Google TV to surf the channels, and Google knows I'm a fan of The Eagles, they'll give me a heads up if their game is live on ESPN.