At an event a couple of years ago, I made the mistake of claiming to an elearning manager that people would one day search for information through social networks rather than flat text search engines like Google. That was pretty much the end of the conversation; he couldn’t believe that this would ever be the case.
Interesting, then, to see Robert Scoble claim that Google will be beaten by the likes of Facebook and Mahalo. In other words, graph based search that provides results based on your interests and relevant connections.
In the linked article, Michael Arrington points out the genuine flaws in some of Scoble’s claims, but I think the two search approaches essentially augment each other. The first, traditional set of search, allows for broad information discovery: for example, to find out when the local DIY superstore shuts on a Sunday, or to find alternatives to my broken digital TV service (as I did yesterday). The second allows you to build up a network of trusted sources and mine them for information you trust.
A static example of this current approach is Google News, which I use daily to check out different takes on current events. (The CNN version of a story often has information that the Guardian doesn’t, and vice versa.) News sites are, in effect, a subgroup of sources that I might want to mine for information. But what about people in the tech sphere, if I want to find out about approaches to programming a particular kind of project? Or how about finding information relevant to my business from my colleagues? (Or taken from the global search and edited for relevance by their actions?)
These types of search are underdeveloped and underused, in part because everyone wants to ape Google. As Arrington points out, the next big thing may be from Google itself; we just need someone to think outside the box and push the concept forward from its current, stale incarnation.