There is a really good post entitled “The Evolution of Search: A Look at the History, Vision, Innovators, and Future of Information Accessibility” [http://blog.tigerlogic.com/chunkit/the-evolution-of-search/] which gives an overview of the history of search. Here is an excerpt of the post–the conclusion discussion of the future of search:
“THE FUTURE OF SEARCH
A. The Beginning - Until now, search has been all about accurately matching what you type as your search query to the content available on the Internet. This idea was the basis for the original search engines, and continues to be the concept we all understand search to be. But search can be so much more. While we may sometimes know what we are looking for, we often don’t have enough information to properly find the information we seek, or perhaps we only begin with a concept, and need to be led to more concrete definitions or ideas. Search as it stand today is robotic and one dimensional, and most certainly still in its infancy.
B. The Vision - If you’re a Star-Trek fan, you’re likely quite familiar with the future of search. The computer on the USS Enterprise is perhaps one of the best known and most easy to relate to examples of the direction search is moving in. Members of the Enterprise ask the computer any question, phrased in any way, and the computer will linguistically understand both the intent of the question, and its main message. Searchers of the future will make queries that result not only in the information they asked for, but also in content that is related in any possible fashion; semantically, conceptually, etc. People will use search as a guide to their understanding in a way that is not even fully conceptualized, but promises to be a mix of advanced artificial intelligence, incredible computational understand of human language, and the integration of huge amounts of human behavioral data that will inform these advanced systems about what is most relevant.
C. The Game Changer - Every major search engine considers the above to be its end goal. Companies like Google and Yahoo are pouring large amounts of monetary and intellectual resources into the technologies that will be the platform for the search of the future. From the research and development being done at the GooglePlex on items like speech recognition and linguistics, it is apparent that we are trending toward ever more sophisticated implementations of what was once a very simple concept. As we move toward the future, those changing the game will be the developers of new technology that harness the vast quantities of information online, and seek to understand that information as fully as possible, coupled with the goal of understanding the way in which we seek that information.”