Online Information 2010: the future of search

What does 2011 hold for the development of search tools?

The theme of effective searching was a key strand of the Online Information 2010 Conference. In the Conference's closing session, Stephen Arnold debated the new world of search with an expert panel (David Hawking, Funnelback; Andrew Kanter, Autonomy; Saratendu Sethi, SAS; Jeremy Bentley, Smartlogic). It was an excellent opportunity to hear from the senior executives leading these organisations about their priorities and strategic developments for their products and services.

The headlines of the debate were as follows:

  • Proprietary software companies do not feel that Open Source (OS) search will put them under pressure
  • Open Source's place is at the commodity end of the market - the smallest part.
  • Added value, guidance and ‘finding' will be where proprietary companies can build their impact; because...
  • ‘Finding' not search is what people are prepared to pay for
  • Products may be modified by end users if they wish
  • Search is becoming more focused on solving business problems.
  • Metadata is critical to the success of searching.
  • End users should not need to deal with complex search semantics.
  • Work is needed to make metadata accurate.
  • Searching should be simply built into the problem solving system, but it is often the weak link.
  • Findability will be improved by improved metadata. Technology is already available that can handle thousands of transactions a second, so this is not a problem.
  • Enterprise semantics is the technology that we should be considering.
  • Mobile devices present presentation challenges but they offer new ways to be interactive.
  • The power of mobile devices creates opportunities for new products using the new technologies now available.
  • The big challenge is to help people formulate their queries to match the data structure.