I Have Seen The New Face of Search and It Is Not Google


text search

I’ve seen the new face of Search, and it ain’t Google. What is it you ask?

It is a text message.

Wait, what? A text message?! Alex, this really makes no sense?! Ah, but it does. Read on, and you will see why…

The Rise of Mobile

The rapid rise of mobile is wiping out desktop. At least for consumers, their phones have become the way they experience Internet. Mobile is not the new web: it is the only web. And it is very different.

Mobile is beautiful precisely because it affords so little. It already gave us the simplicity of scroll, and the swipe, but its biggest gift to us, a whole new way to search is just around the corner.

The Google Standard

We are so used to Google search, its interface and format, that we rarely question it these days. After all, it always gives us the answer, right? Whatever thing you are looking for, just type it into browser bar (you don’t even need to go to Google.com) and voila — 10 links, or so called the answer.

But why is it 10 links, and how can an answer to every single question be found in 10 links?

Imagine if, in real life, someone would ask you a question, and your reply would be — here, the answer would be inside these 10 links. Absurd!

When people talk to each other, they arrive at “the answer” by means of a conversation. I ask you a question, you reply, you clarify, I might follow up, and then you reply again.

A question in real life is a conversation that leads to an answer.

The Text Messaging

The email has long being hailed to be the killer app for the web, but on mobile, there is a new king. It is Text Messaging, and we are all addicted to it. We love the form, we love the speed, we love our emoji.

Lets face it, the feeling that we get when typing a text message – that silly, quick, fun and instantly gratifying thing – is the feeling that we never had typing on regular computer keyboard.

Email is always work; text messaging is always fun.

But beneath all the fun and emoji silliness, we’ve been evolving something groundbreaking and profound. We’ve created a simple format for quick conversations. We created a new way to ask questions, and receive an answer via computer that is a lot closer to how people do it in real life.

By using Text Messaging, we have been playing an iterative Q&A game. And this is a pretty big deal.

Enter the New Kind of Search

Now imagine that instead of a Google text field or browser bar, you get a familiar Text Messaging interface and you can ask questions. Here is what happens next:

  1. You will ask questions in the natural form, like you do in real life.
  2. Your questions will be naturally compact, because you are used to compact forms of text messaging, but they won’t be one word or one phrase, like we type into Google. You still can have typos, and missing punctuation.
  3. This format naturally lends itself to the conversation. That is, you don’t expect 10 links – you expect a human response. And you expect to respond in response to this response, and so on.That is, you expect a conversation.
  4. ‘The answer’ will be things/objects/places, and links will become secondary. The answer will be one or two or three things, but not 10 things. The choice will be naturally added via a conversation and iteration, not by pushing 10 links on the user upfront.
  5. You won’t be able to tell the difference between a person or machine replying to you. This is where all the amazing AI stuff (looking at you, Amy) is going to come handy and will really shine.
  6. You won’t think of this as search anymore, but as your command and control for all the things you need – tasks, purchases and of course, good old search. It will be like Siri, except it will be based on text, and have a lot more capabilities. And it will actually work great. (No offense Siri, but you have a ways to go.)

Once this new world order is in place, you will quickly forget how Google worked. Phrase based search and 10 links will become the things of the past. You will quickly get used to, and will love the human way to search. Via a Text Message.

For early hints of what is to come, check out Magic and Cloe.

What do you think? Do you believe that Search will stay the same on Mobile or change?


Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: Ryan Hoover (@rrhoover) interacting with Cloe.

About the author: Alex Iskold

Alex Iskold is the Managing Director of Techstars in New York City.

Previously Alex was Founder/CEO of GetGlue (acquired by i.tv),  founder/CEO of Information Laboratory (acquired by IBM), and Chief Architect DataSynapse (acquired by TIBCO).

Alex routinely writes about entrepreneurship and startups at Alex Iskold.

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