Editor’s note: The following guest post is written by Shashi Seth, the senior vice president of Search products at Yahoo! Previously, Shashi worked at Google where he developed the monetization strategy for YouTube and was also the product lead for search.
Search is about to change quite radically. For more than a decade, search has been stagnant: the core product has not changed much. Users have changed radically in that time frame. Even though the kind of content users consume is different, search engines are still focused mostly on web pages. Users have become less patient and have less time on hand, while search engines still require users to dig through and extract information from the web pages to find what they’re looking for. In addition, users are spending more and more time on their mobile phones and other connected devices, which require a completely different kind of user experience for search.
When we talk about Search, keep in mind that Search, Discovery, Recommendations, and Serendipity are all essentially the same thing. Why? Well, to start with, one would need a comprehensive index of content for each of these things to work. This gives you a world view, so to speak. How that index is created has changed over time, and what goes into that index has changed. About ten years ago, the index only consisted of HTML pages, but that information has been changing. How the index was created was heavily focused on signals provided by HTML pages, links, consumption, etc.
Today, many social signals are consumed, including how often and how quickly an entity or URL is being embedded elsewhere, whether it is with positive or negative intent and sentiment, and is it trending up or down since last week/month. Search engines have mostly focused on the backend and infrastructure, and rightly so, because search requires a delicate balance between some of the most complex technologies, and a vast amount of infrastructure. Solving today’s user needs requires a different focus: a special blend of science, a finely tuned user experience, cutting-edge design skills, and a slightly different mix of engineering and infrastructure.