Chris Sherman Predicts the Future

September 24, 2006

At last week’s Web Search University in Washington, D.C. Chris Sherman’s keynote speech predicted the future. Well, OK, he didn’t really predict the future, the whole future and nothing but the future. But, he did predict the future of Internet search engines – and that got our attention.

Chris Sherman’s keynote address was titled “Predictions on the State of Web Search Engines.” Chris and Gary Price (who closed the convention with “Price’s Pearls” – but more on that in an upcoming post) coined the term “invisible web” in their now 5 year old book, The Invisible Web. Chris also wrote the book, Google Power, and is the managing editor of searchenginewatch.com – so I’d say he’s qualified to predict the future of Internet search.

Although I’m going to number just a few of his points to make them more digestible, I’m not being fair to the essence of his speech. Mr. Sherman weaved facts, with prognostication, with philosophy, with humor – and with very little hogwash (which is rare for anyone talking about technology and the Internet). Ya’ had to be there – I guess is another way to say it – and you can be – or hear him speak, at least (if you live in Denver) at the upcoming Search Engine Strategies Conference on September 28 at the Adam’s Mark hotel.

Some of Chris’ predictions (what, you thought I’d tell you all of them?!!):

1) Ask.com is coming on strong. If you haven’t pointed your web searches to anything other than Google lately, I think you’d be pretty pleased if you tried www.ask.com as your search engine. Chris is not the only one talking in glowing terms about what these guys are doing. Both Walter Mossberg and Lee Gomes of the Wall Street Journal have written columns about this “Avis of search engines.” Mossberg’s was called Ask.com’s New Look Scores Big Points Against Search Rivals – and Lee Gomes’ column was called Simple Tips for Smarter Searches, but you’ll have to have a subscription to the Journal to get that one. And, yes, for those of you who can remember back to the horse and buggy days of the web – oh, about two years ago – Ask.com was called AskJeeves.com (but the butler did it – or didn’t do it, I guess you could say).

2) Microsoft does something interesting. Chris Sherman called this “the Steve Berkowitz factor.” In a sort of turnabout is fair play, Microsoft hired Ask.com’s Steve Berkowitz this year – and has just launched www.live.com to replace the old MSN search. We tried it on a search for “Steve Berkowitz” Microsoft – in the News tab – and it kicked Google’s butt.

3) Social Search is important. Talk about philosophy! We promise never to speak (or write) in technical terms, so a we have a bit of a challenge here, but we’ll try. When you type your search terms into Ask.com (or Google or Yahoo or Live.com) the results you see are based primarily on a mathematical formula so complex that even Albert Einstein would have given up and applied for a job at Macy’s. Actually, that formula is called something else, but I’m not allowed to say the word here. Social Search (are you ready for this?) means that your search results would be informed by, fiddled with or manipulated by (omigosh) humans. Eek! Social Search is such a huge topic that we’ll deal with it another day – but here’s Chris’ recent blog entry called “What’s the Big Deal with Social Search.”

There was much, much more. Chris also told us how to “keep an eye on blogs,” covered a lot of “Web 2.0 Hoohaw” and talked about how rich Google is. How rich is Google, you ask.com? Well, no one really knows, but they are investing over $2 billion this year in research, which is more than I spent last week in lunch money alone.

Google isn’t spending much money on helping librarians learn more about Internet search, though. They were a sponsor of the Web Search University, along with several other companies, but they didn’t have a table at the event manned by a recognizable homo sapien (like the other sponsors). When I asked the folks in charge where they were, I got this answer, “The guy who does this sort of thing at Google had a speech elsewhere.” The guy, huh? Yeah, they’re a little lean on staff these days – just seven guys working out of an attic in Mountain View. The guy couldn’t make it. Too bad.

Perhaps that’s why the professional researchers who spoke at this convention talked a lot more about Ask.com, Live.com and Yahoo – and the cool stuff all three are doing – than they did about Google. Chris Sherman was no different. That tell you much about the future of search?

One comment

  1. […] We read articles all the time about search engines that might just be the next “Google replacement.” Google owns most of the world, in case you hadn’t noticed, and some folks just aren’t happy with that. I think the word “competition” has something to do with it. We’ve already written about the growing power of Google’s competitors in another post (“Chris Sherman Predicts the Future”). Now, we’d like to introduce you to a search engine that doesn’t replace Google, but instead, “plays well with others.” You’ll find it at http://www.answers.com. […]

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