What do you think of when you search something on the Internet? Google, Yahoo, or perhaps MSN? Or have you discovered a better one, but less known compared to the other three giants which have been fighting over the right to be your favorite search engine?
Well, the bad news is that you don't need to have anymore a favorite search engine because in general, all search engines are almost equal regarding relevance. It's obvious that Google has a more simplistic page, Yahoo integrates searching in Yahoo Messenger, thus the only criteria you have for choosing one search engine over another is purely esthetical.
The good news is that from now on, the battle of searches will be fought according to new laws. And one of those laws is visualization. Soon, the best search engine will be the one able to tell you not only where to buy fries, but also to show you in real time how that joint looks like and to send detailed information on how to get there.
Google Maps and Yahoo Maps are just the beginning. The fact that the two giants have offered free access to their mapping services opens a new era in local searching.
Every skilled programmer will be able to make a map with all the details he wants. Soon it won't matter how a good a shop looks like, but how easy it is to find it on the map and how well it is indexed in the Maps services.
Probably, it will take 2-3 years, but soon the phrase "If you're not on the map, you don't exist" will be a motto.
I think that search engines are about done with World Wide Web information, and I'm not saying that they have indexed all 67 million hostnames counted by Netcraft, but that Google, Yahoo and MSN have the know-how. Indexing a site is no longer a challenge, only a matter of time.
The challenges come now from different areas: maps, video indexing, subscription-based content.
Many rushed in to laugh at Ballmer and Gates when they said that there is more to searching than what we know from Google. And it seems that they were right. The way in which our children will search the web, the desktop or LAN will have little in common with what we understand right know by the term searching.