This year will be remembered for cloud computing, real-time search, and the appearance of Google’s Web-based operating system.
The Web’s dominant search company, Google, got some serious competition in 2009. Thanks to a long-awaited technology-sharing deal with Yahoo and a focus on product-related searches, Microsoft’s revamped search engine, Bing, began nipping at Google’s heels (“What’s Microsoft’s Bing Strategy?”).
The physicist Stephen Wolfram also shook up the search-engine scene by developing a “computational knowledge engine” designed to provide all sorts of useful information via a search-like interface (“Search Me,” “Alpha and Google Face Off,” and “Wolfram Alpha Braces for Overload”). The arrival of Wolfram Alpha also forced Google to explore a more sophisticated approach to presenting meaningful information from online databases (“Google Unveils Google Squared”).
In the battle to gain an edge, both Google and Microsoft turned their attention to the “real-time Web” and this year’s hottest Web company, Twitter. Keen to tap into the freshest online information, these search engines began delivering seconds-old snippets from Twitter, as well as other sites in their results (“Google Takes Search Real-Time”). Several startups also hope to tap into real-time online activity (“In Search of What Everyone’s Clicking”). But collecting real-time information and presenting it in meaningful ways remains a tricky challenge, as Google CEO Eric Schmidt explained during recent a visit to Cambridge, MA (“Searching for Real-Time Search”).
Faster search is just one sign of a general increase in the speed of information flow across the Web. This year Internet experts revealed new protocols for collecting bits of related information no matter where they appear online (“Who’s Talking About Me?”). Others focused on analyzing the huge quantities of data being produced at any given moment (“Startups Mine the Real-Time Web”).
In Search of Context
With so much interest in mining Twitter posts, the trustworthiness of online information was another hot issue. Several research projects and startups have revealed ways to automatically determine who can be trusted to provide accurate information on a particular topic (“A Smarter Way to Dig Up Experts” and “Computers Can’t Answer Everything”). Researchers have also developed ways to add context to information posted online. In this area, Wikipedia has come under particular scrutiny (“Who’s Messing With Wikipedia?” and “Adding Trust to Wikipedia, and Beyond”).