View Full Version : Search Revolution: Meeting of The Minds Dinner Recap

12-08-2005, 03:45 PM
MIT hosted a dinner on 12/7 featuring:

Safa Rashtchy, Managing Director, Senior Research Analyst, Piper Jaffray
Urs Hoelzle, Google Fellow, VP of Operations
Gary Flake, Microsoft, MSN Technical Fellow
Eckart Walther, Yahoo!, VP of Yahoo! Search Products
Oren Etzioni, UW Professor, Madrona Venture Group

I attended the event and wanted to share some of the highlights. Some of the info won't be new to you, but here are some of my notes:

In regards to the way search is changing, the engines seemed to agree that people are using more keywords in their searches now and rely less on operators like +, ALL, NOT, etc. thanks to improvements the search engines have made over the years.

MSN felt the dialog between the engines & searchers is improving with things like shortcuts and instant answers. On that note, Yahoo announced Yahoo Answers - something that Google has had for a while, but in a much more open framework and with the large audience Yahoo can bring to the service. The UW professor thought tagging (del.ico.us, etc.) is a really important movement and that he was working on a prototype of aggregated search results from many content providers. An example: a user looking for laptop recommendations could get aggregated reviews from a single search engine reading through tons of pages on different sites. What might display is something like:

80% of editors recommended laptop A
84% of readers recommended laptop A
Favorite Features: great graphics card, fast processor, cheap.
The most common complaint: the DVD drive stop working after a year.

Google mentioned artificial intelligence and the importance of the long tail.

On the topic of video search, the speakers and audience felt that speech recognition, closed caption technology or even transcripts could help search engines improved on video search (something that all of them admitted to being flawed right now). Another problem is that there isn't enough content yet.

Google mentioned that they are brainstorming ways to potentially certify SEO experts because many companies are paying big bucks to people who may violate the guidelines and get them blacklisted. Google also mentioned a program that would send notes to people to fix their sites within 30 days to avoid blacklisting (for hidden text, etc.). Interesting thing to me is that if they did this, blackhats could quickly find out what the search engine does and does not like. I imagine they would only do this for blatent spamming rather than give away nuggets of what Google might penalize for.

MSN announced their launch of Windows Live Local, where you can get low flying aerial pictures for a better perspective of things like front of buildings, etc. MSN mentioned that you will see them trying a lot of new things with search in the next year.

The people at the dinner tended to be either MIT forum junkies, start ups looking for seed money or people with "search technology" that to sell to the engines for big bucks. Many companies are desperately looking for good SEO people/firms. Great news for the industry.