Real-Language Q&A: The Next Generation of Search?

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Real-Language Q&A: The Next Generation of Search?

Everyone in the tech field has a slightly different idea of where search engines should go from here. Computer scientist Oren Etzioni, however, has a particularly intriguing – though perhaps implausible – idea. He calls it “natural language questions and answers.”

Etzioni’s Search Engine Vision

Etzioni is a computer scientist at the University of Washington. More specifically, he’s a researcher into the technology behind natural language communication between humans and computers. When discussing the breakthroughs in recent years, Etzioni says there are plenty of examples of just how far we’ve come. Few, however, are as good as Watson – the I.B.M. computer who could play Jeopardy!

In Etzioni’s view, the next generation of search would abandon the “blue link” structure in favor of directly answering the questions of users. “Moving up the information food chain requires a search engine that can interpret a user’s question, extract facts from all the information on the web, and select an appropriate answer,” he states. The tricky part, though, is in finding the answer.

With so many ambiguities, it’s difficult to see how most questions could be answered by a search site. However, when it comes to direct questions with a single, obvious answer, Google and other search sites are already making progress. Widgets that let you track packages, check flight times, see the weather, and view local maps are all a part of Google’s approach. Bing, meanwhile, is focused on providing more services that give direct answers.

How should SEOs feel about this? The very idea of search engines getting the answers directly means that websites – potentially all websites – would become just a source for an answer engine. It would require an entirely different monetization structure and a very different conception of the web. The changes, though, won’t be immediate. Even Etzioni says he doesn’t expect Google to “turn on a dime.” He simply hopes that more investments will be made into this futuristic technology.

[Sources include: The Vancouver Sun]

Rob D Young

Rob D Young

Rob has been insatiably obsessed with Google, search engine technology, and the trends of the web-based world since he began ... [Read full bio]