The future of search engines

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Are Google’s days numbered as our number one search engine?

For the best part of 25 years, Google has ruled the roost of the online search industry. The system has become so popular; it’s even coined its own phrase. Today we don’t simply “search” for things – we “Google” them.

Since it was launched by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1996, Google has come to dominate, far eclipsing its previous rivals like Yahoo!, AltaVista and AOL etc. Indeed, today, Google is now estimated to account for 70.38% of all global desktop searches.


Improving technologies and smarter devices

However, while Google’s position is fairly assured, for now, the tech industry is a notoriously fickle place, and signs are already afoot that company’s position may not be quite as solid as one might imagine. With new and improved technologies constantly in development – and the growing integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in an increasing number of devices – could we soon see a day where Google faces real competition in the arena of search? Here are just a few ways the way we search is expected to change in the coming years.


Social media search

 The top social media services are already being used by many people to search for information and, increasingly, products. In particular, Twitter’s hashtag system is a very effective way to search for news (even if not all of it is real). For example, rather than searching Google for, say, “Italian Giro 2020 race news”, users can instead just type #Giro2020 into Twitter to receive the latest tweeted updates.

Twitter’s rise in popularity has been attributed (at least in part) to US President Donald Trump’s clear affection for the system – although many other politicians have since followed suit.

Also, social media sites are making inroads to search. For example, Instagram recently launched its Instagram Shopping and Instagram Checkout services, perhaps hinting at how social searches could become more involved and go beyond basic media searches in the future.


The growing popularity of vertical search

Rather than searching the entire web, vertical searches take place on one single site, mostly in product searches. Examples of vertical search include Amazon (products), Airbnb (accommodation) and Skyscanner (flights). In the world of e-commerce, vertical searches are becoming increasingly common with some sites becoming the de facto choice for specific searches within a particular industry.

Vertical searches are an incredibly efficient way to find the products you’re looking for quickly. Sites like Octopart specialize in the supply of electrical parts, and can produce specific search results in a fraction of the time it would take to trawl Google results.

While it might seem hard to imagine now, vertical searches have every chance of soon dominating the e-commerce search market.


The next great leap in search – visual searching

 Visual search is still very much in its infancy; however, it offers intriguing possibilities and is sure to feature more and more in our searches of the future. Google is leading the way in visual search systems with its Google Lens product and, although the results it generates right now can be a little errant, the company is investing heavily in the technology.

With Google Lens, users can simply take a picture of an object and upload it to Google’s vast database of images which makes comparisons based on colour, shapes or patterns. As Google’s database grows – and, more importantly, as its systems begin to understand user intent better – it is sure to start providing more interesting and accurate search results.