6 Ways Search Will Change in the Next Decade

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2014 is whirling to a close. As Panda rolls out and a new year rolls in, I’ve been pondering the future of search.

But honestly, I’ve also just misplaced a jacket, and so I’ve been wondering if I’ll ever get a search function for my house. Or if there will ever be a way to search all my emails, social media updates, and the documents on my computer with one query. I don’t know if we’ll have a search function for physical objects in the next decade, or even a way to search every digital record, but here are six ways I’m sure how we search and what we search for will change.

1) Voice search

If you think mobile has shifted things, get ready for the next hit: Voice search. Siri may not be everyone’s best friend, but voice search is developing rapidly, with Google leading the technology ahead of other players. Even now, 55 percent of teens aged 13-18 use voice search every day. But while teens have no problem with voice search, 56 percent of adults (“adults” are those over 18) say it makes them feel geeky. But geeky or not, even us old folks are using voice search more and more.

Here’s how the two age groups differ in how they use voice search… at least for now.

These tasks are certainly interesting, but what about driving? There’s literally lives to be saved if we can get people to use voice search and communication rather than text at the wheel.
These tasks are certainly interesting, but what about driving? There are lives to be saved if we can get people to use voice search and communication rather than text at the wheel.

2) Wearables

Answer this: If mobile devices have altered search result viewing habits so much that you can see the behavior changes even when they’re using a desktop, how could wearables alter viewing habits on mobile and desktop devices?

And a few more questions: Will the Apple watch transform local SEO? Will grandmothers ever wear Google Glass?

Anything is possible. According to Business Intelligence, Google Glass sales could reach 21 million units per year by 2018, but that’s still just a fraction of how many iPhones are sold. In 2011 alone, 72 million people bought a new iPhone. It’s also possible that by the time 2018 rolls around Google Glass will seem positively passé compared to the far sexier surgically implanted chips some of us will be wearing. I really think the chips are really not an “if”, but a “when”… even if the when is 2028. The real question is where they’ll be implanted.

Even now, about 15% of us are sporting wearables. About half (48%) of the people wearing them are between 18-34 years old. “Fitness bands were the most popular devices (61%), followed by smart watches (45%) and mHealth (mobile health) devices (17%),” according to a Nielsen.com study done in November 2013. Of those three device types, expect smart watches to be the thing to really take off: The market research firm Gartner recently reported that they expect 40% of wristworn devices will be smart watches by 2016.

Maybe Google Glass is just too modern for mainstream adoption, but it’s quite possible we’ll see grandmothers wearing smartwatches soon.

Excerpted from SmarterWatching.com's Top 10 smartwatch companies infographic
Excerpted from SmarterWatching.com’s Top 10 smartwatch companies infographic

3) Shopping

Google considers Amazon to be it’s largest competitor. Seriously. “Eric Schmidt, speaking in Berlin earlier this week, said the giant e-tailer is its biggest competition” reports Motley Fool.

Here’s why: Google makes far more AdWords income from keywords people use when they have an intent to buy. Everyone who uses Google AdWords already knows this. But here’s what you might not know: One-third of all shopping searches start on Amazon. Only about half that many shopping searches start on Google. Amazon is beating Google on shopping searches.

Amazon is edging into Google’s domain with it’s Kindle content, too. When Amazon suddenly offered all the books and other content available on a Kindle for free, it basically created a vast library of free content… kinda like a smaller, but better edited, Internet.

Google is also going up against Amazon on same day delivery, advertising (you’ve noticed all those 3rd party product ads on Amazon, right?) and even cloud computing.

So next question: How will Google alter search results and other products in order to take out Amazon? And how much would you pay to be a fly on the wall while their testing teams battle it out?

4) More and more customized search

How soon will it be until Google knows if we prefer our content in video, or infographic, or Slideshare format? When will it get smart enough to show us content in the formats we prefer? Or (even scarier) when will it figure out how to take content made in one format and serve it up in another format, on the fly, for us?

5) “The Internet of Things”

What will it mean when your refrigerator can talk to your iPhone? Will we be able to search for refrigerator warranty information, product manuals and related purchases from a little screen over the ice crusher? Will our refrigerator be able to tell if we’re about to be out of our favorite special hot sauce, and then order that hot sauce from Amazon (or Google)?

Once again, Google is stepping in to shape that answer. They made their first major move at the beginning of this year, when they bought the home control company Nest Inc. for $3.2 billion. Scott Jensen, a Googler, also recently revealed a project called “The Physical Web” underway at Google that would remove the need for third party apps, so each device could tell you what you need to know without any app required. A bus stop would be able to tell you when the next bus was coming. Or, from the earlier example, your refrigerator might be able to print out your grocery list. If that’s so, you can already see the need for a 3rd party app, though – most of us will probably want our grocery list sent to our smartphones, rather than printed out.

This brings us back to getting a search function for my house – or yours. Given that so many of the products we buy now have Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Systems, let’s not pretend these things can’t be tracked. And if they can be tracked, I’d like to know where my jacket is.

6) How to manage for overload

The amount of digital information doubles every two years. Given that 99% of clicks go to the listings on the first page of search results, what does will it mean if every two years there is twice as much information available? Will Google automatically add more listings, so the top ten pages returned don’t hog all the traffic? Or will search become more and more of a winner take all game?

From Digitalmedianet.com, showing the IDC's (International Data Corporation) estimates of information created throughout human history.
From Digitalmedianet.com, showing the IDC’s (International Data Corporation) estimates of information created throughout human history.