John Maeda

Design Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers


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When will Google's dominance in search end?

Google's potent blend of brutally functionalistic design mated with supersonic backend technologies seems unbeatable today. All kinds of design-y front end interfaces have been invented on the Web for quite some time, such as ThinkMap and NewsMap to name two of my favorites, but at the end of the day we still prefer a good old fashioned scrollable list when looking for a needle in the haystack. The iPad brings a significantly different "feel" to digging for info for the average consumer in a way that used to be only possible with higher-end user interface paradigms a la Jeff Han. What kind and when will there be a better search interface that will dominate, and will that be designed by Google? Or somebody else? Is it already out there?

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    Feb 17 2011: Coincidently I just read a very interesting blog post from Irish software entrepreneur Chris Horn writing about search and relevance. There is a lot of very interesting information from an informed observer in there.

    Note: Chris is an investor in the company, Sophia, that he is writing about.
    • Feb 22 2011: Thanks Darryl.

      Sophia is not an internet search engine, but (currently...) is targetted inside the firewall for unstructured documents.

      It takes a different approach to most other engines, by using information entropy (from Shannon's pioneering work).

      One consequence is that it can find "interesting" documents even if these do NOT contain any of the search keywords which you specify...

      Another is that no ontology, tags, dictionary, thesaurus or any other meta-data are required...

      The blog post which Darryl gives the URL to gives some more details, and some screen shots based on the New York Times archives.

      We don't yet have enough horsepower to offer the service to everyone (need to upgrade our broadband and servers in Belfast)... But if anyone would like a live demo, we can arrange this...

      best wishes - and thanks
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    Feb 22 2011: I thought about what the future of search would be for a while, and i am thinking the evolution of the web has been toward a more visual experience. So i came to investigate myself not how the information is found but how it is displayed.
    Google comes from an age where internet was mainly textual and contextual.
    Now the web is much faster and machines powerful enough so the web we browse now is filled with images and videos. And for me that sounds like a natural evolution, we can process images much faster than text (don't have numbers but quite huge difference). So selecting a result among a visual grid is a much more instant approach for filtering infos than a list of text that we need to read one by one.
    Also most users who search google end up clicking on the first link (which is supposed to be the most relavant) so
    With all those ideas in mind i tried 2 experiments :
    One is a visual video search:
    One is the fastest search engine ever made ;-) :

    I would really like to have your comments on those experiments John.
    But i notice most users search directly onto their web browser tied to google, so quite difficult to change users habits.
    So I want to push the concept further by making a visual searching web browser. Any feedbacks and ideas would be greatly appreciated
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    Feb 22 2011: The comments on Facebook morphing into the ubersearch engine seem logical -- although I gave up on Facebook last year as I couldn't keep up with everything. And the WolframAlpha experience is something I find elegant -- like a finely set dining experience ... but sometimes I just want to eat a hamburger.

    Alternatively, given what we see in China today in the search engine space or in the Maps space makes me wonder if the next search/cool-geolocation-hack innovation might come from China. When it becomes possible to have access to so many people (versus processors) that can handcraft an online experience at a scale that is unimaginable in the Western world, it's logical that something new might emerge.
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    Feb 15 2011: It all depends if Google has any intention of stopping developing its search-strategy approach, which has always been flexible in time.
    WolframAlpha is really extremely good, but specific to a certain field.
    Facebook still depends on user imput, and even if FB decided to enter the 'search engine' market, it would not make it its main purpose in life, ending like marginal search engines, and still carrying on being a major social network, its real purpose.

    I see the next move from Google as integrating an option of cloud search like Quintura.
    Google's algorithm is not known but it is also modified in time.

    So, to me the question would be more like "what would a search engine have to do to be better than Google?". With this I do not mean to say that Google is perfect, far from it. But it is still the dominant engine because it has so far adapted fast enough to market changes.
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    Feb 13 2011: Maybe it' already out there and is slowly growing.
    Just read this article about Stephen Wolfram and hope that his Wolfram|Alpha may do one day the trick:

    On the other hand, more and more criticism is expressed regarding Google's search results quality.

    Anyway, when this new search engine will kick Google down from pole position, many people will say:
    Ok, it's interesting, "But It’s Not Google." :-)
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    Feb 13 2011: I seriously think that this will happen when, and if, a platform like FACEBOOK decides to venture into search, and more so if they play on the idea of "SOCIAL SEARCH" especially when FACEBOOK hits 1 BILLION users, and more companies/vendors sign up to be part of it. Even now, FACEBOOK has ventured in the retail/shopping domain and has recently started with shop fronts for actual stores on FACEBOOK.