Back when I was reporting the book, I remember a meeting I had with Gary Flake, then the lead technologist at Overture, now a Fellow at Microsoft running Live Labs, responsible for stuff like Seadragon, Photosynth, and now, Pivot, an experimental approach to large datasets that attempts to rethink some fundamental approaches to what we understand search to be today.
Back in 2004, I asked him why we couldn’t move forward in search interface, which struck me as a major issue (and still does). Gary looked at me ruefully and said something I’ve never forgotten: “If only I had just one modal dialog box…”
What he meant was that search, at that point, was a race for the best ten blue links, and anything that got in the way of that, like a modal dialog box that popped up and asked a refining question, would mean that a very large percentage of folks would abandon the search.
And abandonment of the search meant loss of revenue.
Google was just better at getting (approximately) the right first set of blue links, and hence, it won the first round of the search interface wars.
But things are changing. A lot.
I’ve notice lately that I’ve not been happy with search results, because, well, there’s just not enough refinement in the SERPS. But it’s not just the SERPS, its also the interface. I’ve written a lot about this, but in short, I’m frustrated with the way search does post declarative navigation. (OK, that’s totally geeky, but those of you who really care probably know what I mean).
And this is why I’m grokking Pivot right now, and let me just say this….this is worth grokking. So I am going to be doing just that over the next day or so…expect more soon.
If you’d like to grok Pivot, check out this presentation. You’ll need Silverlight….