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Monday, December 4, 2006

Looking for the next Google

Ten years ago, searching was considered a solved problem, and leading search engines Lycos, Excite and Altavista differentiated more on user interface and features than on the qualities of their search results.

Then Larry Page and Sergey Brin came up with the proverbial better idea, founded Google, had an IPO and secured a rather nice place on the Billionaire's list. And search is, again, a solved problem.

Or is it ? It seems like many people are trying to cook up their own "better idea". Here are a few contestants :

  • Clusty automatically sorts your results in relevant clusters.

  • search images according to shape and color. It's not very convincing right now but it's steadily improving.

  • Retrevo describes itself as "the ultimate in consumer electronics search". It does give more relevant results than Google on my favorite digicam and its two-column preview layout is kinda cool. (Although I'd much rather save the screen real estate and use Opera's open-in-background mouse gesture or Safari's Snapback.)

To me these look like three very promising ideas. Especially when Google is taking some flak for their localized search results and privacy policies.

Google itself is working hard to improve its' own product and appear quite relaxed about competition : “It’s very difficult to innovate on the scale that we do,” [Google's Louis Monier] said. “You need a really radical idea, and need to execute it well.”

Of course. But many people sure are trying.

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