re: I worked on MSN, Live, and Bing Search at Microsoft, Ask Me Anything! VIEW POST


Where do you think Google, Bing, and the rest of the search landscape might look like in ten years?

Google probably isn't losing its position tomorrow, but what about a decade from now? Will web search still be the leader, will it be more audio assistants? Will Bing/Microsoft make ground? Will someone else emerge?


Search is a very dynamic landscape and there are some of the smartest people working on it. In the tech industry, a lot of the engineers are poached between the same set of large corporations (Microsoft -> Amazon -> Google -> Facebook -> Twitter -> eBay -> Netflix, etc.) and they tend to bring a lot of tribal knowledge with them even if they don't directly disclose things under NDA. This means that no specific feature is out of reach for any given competitor. That said, they are always trying to innovate, but it can be short-lived before a competitor pulls one on them.

Most of these search engines are constrained with resources and time. Google has quite a headstart compared to Microsoft and other search engines. Yahoo has discontinued it's Search Engine and has been using Bing under the hood (at least they were a few years ago when I left). People are attracted to DuckDuckGo because of their enhanced privacy, but DDG still has a long way to go. They have managed to barely capture .25% of the market share. There are at least a hundred other search engines which are struggling to gain traction.

Now, it is hard to ask someone to switch from Google to another search engine like Bing or DDG. If Google is working for you, you are unlikely to try Bing unless Google was down or a family/friend encourages you to try it out. Even then, you have high expectations and will most likely go back after trying a couple of things depending on your experience.

Traditionally, this approach hasn't worked well for Bing to acquire users organically. Instead, they have tried to piggyback on other products like the default search bar in IE / Edge, Windows, Cortana, Surface, XBox, Windows Phone, etc. to drive traffic to the site. Most people don't know how to change the default search engine and stick to whatever loads and sometimes they don't have an option. Often you will subscribe to an ecosystem and not worry about switching.

Search is always going to need on-going improvements. What worked 20 years ago, did not work 10 years ago and doesn't work as efficiently today. Think about the amount of data generated every day. It is around several hundred million documents. In addition, the types of documents vary and how search engines can make sense out of them. Throughout the process, they have mostly focused on showing 10 blue links out of billions of documents. That is tricky because how do you accurately pick 10 links out of billions? In the long run, this will be considered the antiquated search experience and those who innovate via AR/VR will be regarded as trailblazers.

The latest trend is ML combined with audio interfaces. These have come a very long way and lend themselves to searching/browsing content. My opinion doesn't shed new light here as we all know that things are headed towards voice interfaces. This has been true since the day of IVR systems. Nowadays, kids talk to their Phones, TV's, XBox's, Echo's, Computers, etc. That is not going to change. While there will be more audio assistants, web search is always going to be there.

In the next ten years, these companies will continue to invest in AI and Audio Interfaces. However, a search index will always be under the hood. They will need to improve on context-sensitive searches to be able to effectively integrate with Audio interfaces. Most search engines will think about modular design like DDG and allow developer integrations into search. They will integrate search with deeper into cars, refrigerators and other mainstream appliances.

One of the emerging trends in the past few years has been vertical search. A lot of sites other than search engines are catering to specific segments and that tends to do a lot better. Google will maintain its position in generic search, but other players may start to take away their market-share for specific verticals as they might not provide the same user experiences.

I've been moonlighting on my own search engine for a while now and I'm hoping I can put it out there for everyone to use. Perhaps, I need to team up with other developers or make it opensource to speed things up. :)

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