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Disrupting search: changing how we find online information

Disrupting search: changing how we find online information 

However, there are no statistics kept on whether these searches result in locating the information that the user wished to find. Andrew Hickey, director of digital marketing at eCornell, a subsidiary of Cornell University which provides online professional and executive development courses to students across the world, believes that the way we search for things online needs to undergo a radical change. He suggested that search engines should be transformed into tools that help users locate better results.

Hickey commented in a recent article on LinkedIn that companies must improve the way they connect consumers with their goods and services. He came to this conclusion after realizing that in spite of technological developments, search has maintained the status quo. “Thoughts of a post-search Internet were driven more so the lack of data or conversation out there about an Internet without search,” Hickey said. “The Internet itself keeps growing and changing, but the primary channels for finding things on the Internet have remained unchanged at their core. Google’s search function undergoes both internal and external adjustments, but we’re still stuck with the search action as our only way of finding things.”

What Hickey advocates is not changing the way we search. “I’m not really suggesting search should be overhauled,” he explained. “I’m suggesting we start to consider a new way entirely of finding things on the Internet.” Hickey has dubbed his solution a “find engine.” In his LinkedIn article, he outlined how such technology would work. The find engine would ask users a series of questions. It would rely upon query and behavioural indicators as well as historical find data to produce a set of suggestions of what sites would be helpful. These suggestions would be constantly fine-tuned to provide the best results.

He offered up an instance of when someone might want to use a find engine as opposed to a search engine. “If you want a quick bit of information to address an immediate need, that could be a search engine query,” Hickey remarked. “If you want to research a vacation or a new, high-dollar purchase or something more weighty, I would think people would be willing to dig a little deeper and not just accept that Google’s first page search results are the absolute best sites for you to explore.”

Hickey acknowledges that a find engine might meet some resistance from Google’s hordes of devotees. He pointed out in his LinkedIn article that consumers possess a desire to have a Company-of-Everything that can fulfill their needs for information, entertainment, shopping and communication. Google has become a Company-of-Everything to many people. Will they be loath to give it up? “I’m sure it depends on the person,” Hickey responded. “We do live in a time of instant gratification and ease of access to information is crucial. A ‘find-engine’ would take a little more time and effort, yes. But the payoff, in theory, would be worth it – a discovery, or find, instead of a result.”

He is already seeing Internet users shy away from social media Companies-of-Everything in favour of less “noisy” digital venues. “Look at something like Facebook, a sprawling network with billions of members,” Hickey cited as an example. “But the youngest users – the future of the platform – are either leaving or going dormant in favor of social media channels that are less cluttered with people and things they don’t relate to. They are leaving the biggest site on the planet for smaller sites because they want a better experience.”

The find engine represents a juicy business opportunity to entrepreneurs who are willing and able to bring it to life. Hickey counseled that such entrepreneurs need three things in order to succeed in this endeavour: money, patience and vision. “Vision is probably the most important, because the idea itself is new and malleable,” he added. “It’s all about seeing around corners…What’s next? Where’s the next huge disruption going to happen? I think search is ripe for disruption.”

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