Web searching has certainly come a long way since the days of WebCrawler, started back in the mid-90s. Not only do we have the all encompassing Google, there are now dedicated search engines such as Yelp and Eventful. And yet, another evolution has begun with Apple, namely Siri, once more helping to propel it.
What is the next stage? Truly intelligent search engines that can decipher and process data rather than simply retrieving matching results from a raw database. As Joshua at Macgasm points out, “Aggregating results from the Internet and providing results to the webizens isn’t something that’s going to disappear any time soon, but the way we interact with a search engine is changing dramatically.” What does that remind you of? Siri, of course.
Jumping back a little, Google has expanded to include basically every web page on the Internet, however, its results list is based on a basic conclusion of relevance, advertising, and most recent to oldest. It’s an okay approach but it isn’t very efficient, that is, unless you add something extremely popular like “Wiki” to the keywords. That’s where the dedicated search engines are great, although, a person would need to bookmark one for each topic. So, we need to combine them.
In order to make that happen, software developers have come up with intelligent interfaces, what are commonly dubbed as personal assistants. Siri and other artificial intelligence systems are able to comprehend phrases, and not just match words. Not only does this help stay on topic but it can help eliminate those results irrelevant to your context.
There is one more piece to the puzzle: the source. One of the advantages of Siri is having access to multiple sources. Sure, Google is nice overall, but it’s a free for all pool of data. As mentioned earlier, certain services do filter results by category, which is certainly helpful. However, data-deciphering search engines like Wolfram Alpha bring the true efficiency, and that’s probably why “Siri accounts for about a quarter of the queries fielded by Wolfram Alpha.”
What does Wolfram Alpha do for Siri? The service converts pages into much more easily understandable results. For example, Wolfram can take an article that references statistics in a spreadsheet-style from and turn it into a chart or graph. Basically, having Wolfram as a source, or one of many sources, creates a possibility of finding better results and more quickly because the essential data has already been processed.
To answer Joshua’s big question, “is Apple changing the search engine game?” I would say they’re taking a substantial role, but it’s the combination of a few breakthrough services that will drive major advances in how we as humans will continue to utilize and mesh technology into our lives. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t turn into Skynet and terminators or HAL 3000.