Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Updating Search

We need to reimagine the role of search engines and their sources of data.

Real-time search means retrieving information about what’s happening, everywhere, now. The amount of real-time data that’s available is growing rapidly with the proliferation of mobile devices. At Yahoo, we have already begun to incorporate real-time search results from Twitter and sources of developing news. But the scope of real-time data reaches far beyond tweets and Facebook updates. For example, users are uploading photos on Flickr to show what’s happening around them, chatting about the latest news, and answering questions live on sites like Yahoo Answers. That’s just the beginning of the real-time information that can be made available to search engines (see “TR10: Real-Time Search” ).

The sheer amount of real-time data presents unique challenges for search. Because a lot of the data is nonauthoritative, noisy, or spammy, search engines need to build trust models that can determine what data is important and influential. For example, retweets are not often useful results, and some data providers carry more authority than others. Search engines must also determine the right balance between timeliness and relevance to each user. Further, real-time data needs to be indexed and updated instantaneously. A few years ago, search engines took several hours to index. Today, they take only a few seconds–but they need to become even faster.

This story is part of our May/June 2010 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

With the challenges of using real-time data come some exciting possibilities for reimagining search. As in the early days of the Web, when Yahoo built a directory to identify authoritative sites, we are seeing search engines building better trust models. Aggregators are emerging to qualify the reputations of sources. Many other types of self-organization are possible in this new realm.

We can imagine that to speed up the rate at which search engines are able to share real-time data, some sources will inform their indexes when something is happening. Rather than just waiting for search engines to crawl a site, users can push relevant new information. Say you are looking for a parking space in busy downtown San Francisco: parking lots might send updates to search engine indexes as spaces become available.

Already, we know that real-time search can serve needs other than those of traditional Web search. The resulting data can be invaluable in answering long-tail queries–those that aren’t related to the most popular topics. The potential uses of real-time search are limitless. Finding–and inventing–new uses will make search even more valuable in our daily lives.

Shashi Seth is senior vice president of search products at Yahoo.

Cut off? Read unlimited articles today.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.