Search engine research has traditionally focused elsewhere, says Daniel Tunkelang, an engineer at Google who is an expert on information retrieval. “It would be easy to dismiss [casual search behavior], except for the fact that people are doing it,” he says.
Some sites, such as YouTube and Amazon, already help users find completely new content, Tunkelang adds. Both sites have strong search tools for those who know what they want, but for those interested in meandering from one thing to another, they offer recommendations based on what other users liked, links to content made by the same people, or links to similar content.
Wilson says it may be possible to incorporate insights about casual searching into the design of traditional search tools. “To some extent, it’s up to systems to recognize and facilitate people who are putting themselves out there with different motivations, like to have fun,” he says. “It may be feasible, as systems like Google do already with types of target content, to track ‘fun’ queries and assume a little more about casual intentions.”