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13 May 2007

The Future of Search Marketing?

Have you ever noticed how your collection of photos, music and other documents keep growing everyday? With the rise of Web 2.0, there is an ever increasing number of Internet users who contribute to form the collective knowledge that emphasizes online collaboration and sharing among users. However, there will be a time when we can't find what we're looking for in a search engine and somehow all these billions of documents online need some sorting to make sense to us all.

Common Sense. The aim is to add an extra layer of meaning on top of the existing Web that would make it less of a catalog and more of a guide. We need to get machines doing the thinking rather than simply following commands that are updated by computer programmers. However, that level of artificial intelligence will require something more than what the Internet is capable of providing us today. Some call it a World Wide Database. Some say Semantic Web. Perhaps you are more familiar with its buzz word, Web 3.0.

Artificial Intelligence. Of course, the Web is going to evolve like everything else but it's not all about glossy tabs, drop shadows and simple personalized homepages. It’s how the user interacts with the machine and vice versa. In the future, more powerful systems could act as personal advisers in areas such as financial planning, with an intelligent system mapping out a retirement plan for a couple, or educational consulting, with the Web helping a high school student identify the right college. The new Web is going to build a system that can give a reasonable and complete answer to a simple question like: “I’m looking for a sunny place for holidays and I have a budget of $2,000. Oh, and I have an 8 year old child.”

Personalized Information. Yes, you can tag your photos on Flickr so that we can find images that a computer could never find. Yes, you can change the way Google looks to suit your taste, needs or interests. All these collaborative filtering services adds intelligence to the path towards Web 3.0 but for those who think the next phase will be about extending the functionality of the Web and not changing it - think again!

Pushing Further. The real task at hand is to find a new way to mine data and present it to the user in a human fashion. Moreover, this data should be "customized" for each and every user. Adverts will not just be relevant but also be displayed according to the user's tastes. That means you will see (the right) ads, when you want to see ads. For example, the computer will "know" that you like spicy food when you travel to your vacation spot and display ads for good restaurants in the area. That is, when you get there!

Keep Thinking. The very idea has given rise to skeptics who have called it an unobtainable vision. But what about web 4.0? Web 5.0? This doesn't mean engineers start versioning the Web for the sake of marketing. This means the emergence of new systems that change the way we interact with machines, computers, and the Internet in particular. Notice how advertisement are less "in your face" (read pop-ups) and more relevant with searches? Notice how easy it is to create a website like this (read blog), link to information and top that with comments? I remember the days when I spent most of my time coding than writing content, while dreaming of the day when a machine could do it for me. Well, that dream has partly come true.

Everybody needs to have a dream!

[ Illustration via: Personalize Media ]

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