Palm Springs ©Gary Hayes 2005Interesting number of developments going on at the moment. I get the sense that the bigger search portals are starting to realise that they get real competitive advantage from providing personalized ways to ‘get to stuff’. Part of the evolution – a few false starts in this area but hey, here we go again.

Last week we had the equivalent of Apples spotlight suddenly appear in beta stage on Yahoo! – their Instant Search feature. ‘gives you answers as you type’ – oohhh I am so excited, imagine that. OK so unlike Apples spotlight that has had time to dig around inside all your documents and develop a wonderful index, this is doing things much more dynamically – and hats off to the lab folk for making active finding easier.

Another cooler thing coming out of the Yahoo! labs is their Mindset product (which everyone has seen right) – well it is cool in that it has developed some ‘new advanced algorithms’ (yes the personalizemedia equivalent of ‘new advanced washing powder formula’) that wait for it – can work out if a text item is overtly commercial or more informational. A few more small steps to analysing content. Can’t wait for the non-tagged av equivalent – identifies a commercial and viola…I will be posting about much more ‘rich media’ versions of this soon from another company!

A lovely visual on the Yahoo! labs site gives you a good sense of what millions of people are searching for and how we can cluster them – hence the name clustergraph. If you go there roll your mouse over the image and see what people just like you and me are typing into those search engines, all on one page. Don’t stray to far to the right though, that’s where the xxx folk live! One can easily visualize, having seen this simplistic representation of what viewers are looking for, the first elements of personalization, collaborative filtering, at work.

On the other side of the fence we have the mighty Google with their beta (since June) release ‘Personalized Seach and Homepage‘. Apart from the obvious ‘choose the panels’ on your Homepage (c’mon this is not really personalization is it, customization at most!) – there is some real benefit to having search options reduced for any keyword based on your click history – the search part. Again one small step for search one giant leap for true personalization. Certainly merging this basic ‘filtered search’ in with video, audio, maps etc: and we start to see where Google are headed. If only they were moving onto PVR, IPTV and Broadband TV systems too 😉

To quote from their ‘why-join google pages

Google is an engineering company. The Google web site is powered by some amazing technology, most of it developed in-house. Yet people often ask us what we do here at Google Engineering. “What are you working on? Isn’t search a solved problem?”
We’re working on lots of interesting stuff and one of the main reasons is that search is far from a solved problem.

Too right it is.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005