Google working on search before you search

Google's Mayer says company's working on giving search results before question asked

Google this week reiterated its interest in being able to give users search results before they even know they want them.

At the LeWeb '10 conference in Paris on Wednesday, Marissa Mayer, vice president of location services at Google, said the company is working on giving users results without the search.

"The idea is to push information to people," said Mayer, during an on-stage interview. "It's location in context. Inside the browser and a toolbar, we can look at where people have been going on the Web -- then we deliver it. But it's a big UI challenge."

Mayer added that on a PC, the search results might pop up in a panel on the browser, complementing the user's own Web browsing. On a mobile phone, Google would take advantage of the user's location to provide information.

"We can figure out where the next most useful information is," she said. "In a restaurant, maybe it's a menu. Or maybe it's a social menu. It's about explicit and implicit location."

Mayer's comments closely mirror what Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in September.

In a keynote address at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, Schmidt said that at some point in the future, Google's search technology will be autonomous. He explained that he envisions the technology being able to offer users search results even before they've looked for them .

While both Google and its main search rival, Microsoft Bing , have been making significant advances in the past year - such as Google Goggles and real-time search , for example -- autonomous search would be a major shift.

Autonomous search would take users' past experiences, likes and dislikes, and use them, along with geolocation information, to give them information about things that might interest them wherever they might be.

"While it sounds like science fiction to suggest that technology can help search for things you don't even yet know you need, the opportunities to improve human discovery are very real in the future," said Augie Ray, an analyst at Forrester Research, in a previous interview. "Combining a person's context -- where they are, who they're with -- with their past opinions and actions, and the opinions and actions of others, can create tremendous value for people."

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)

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