Search has set an impressive pace of development since its birth, but there is still plenty of scope for innovation.
Search on the internet has come a long way since AltaVista first gave users the option of finding and accessing content in a more methodical way online. Back in 1995, it is unlikely that the scientists who developed the first web index would imagine that in the space of 10 years, search would become the dominant digital force .
The development of search as an advertising medium has centred around evolution. The first indexes in the mid-90s were clunky by today's standards and Google had not yet even launched. The recently rebranded Ask was second to market behind AltaVista and following them was a rash of players including Yahoo! and Excite. While the landscape is now dominated by the behemoth Google, there is still plenty of room for innovation.
Perhaps the best example of this to date has been the emergence of Blinkx.tv, which was founded in 1994 by dotcom entrepreneur Suranga Chandratillake, and has just launched Pico, an integrated search engine. Chandratillake says that Pico is an indication of the future direction of the market and that in 10 years, search as it is known today will no longer exist. 'Today search is an explicit function,' he says, 'but the real power is when it happens automatically in the background, and that is what we are trying to do with Pico.'
The service is intended to sit on users' desktops and read and respond to any text that a user has open in any application. So, if the user was reading an email from a friend about taking a trip to Rome, for example, Pico would already be delivering content on Rome such as travel guides and hotel listings.
The idea of second-guessing the user is not new. Microsoft tried it a few years ago, introducing the Clippy paperclip helpcharacter in Word. Unfortunately, most people found the character more annoying than helpful. Chandratillake is certain that Pico will not have such problems. 'Search is a very disruptive medium, but Pico complements whatever you are using, anything with text in the window,' he says.
Beyond the written word, search services are already being developed for video, with obvious commercial benefits for TV and film distribution companies.
If video search follows the same pattern of development as text-based search and becomes the automatic choice for finding video online, and if the commercial model developed on Google in the US is adopted more widely, then video content owners will be cashing in, with technology platforms such as Apple's iPod likely to be a prominent destination. …