IPTS Workshop: Socio-Economic Challenges of Search

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How the Social Web Will Impact on Web Search
Susanne Koch, Oslo, Norway, Pandia.com1

The Social Web is changing web search and the search engine business. This change poses challenges and brings opportunities. This paper presents current cutting edge trends that will change the shape of search in the yeas to come and present solutions to how the European search engine industry and the European Community can benefit from these changes.

User-generated content will influence existing search products
Among the defining characteristics of the social Web is its participatory aspect. This participation consists not only in interaction but – equally important – in sharing and producing content. Web users, a former audience, are now producing web content and changing the face of the Web in general and of Web publishing in particular. Blogs, wikis, video and image sharing and a host of related services, deliver large amounts of user-generated content of both good and not so good quality). For search engines, this means new types of content to index, rank and present. It also entails the need to assess the quality of large quantities of virtually unedited content. But the Social Web offers solutions to these challenges. Use of data from Social Web services like social bookmarking offers quality input in identifying and ranking search results: • How often a page is bookmarked is an indicator of quality. • Tags associated with a page helps identifying the theme of the page and its relevance for search queries The steady stream of tagged or user-generated content can also be used for trend analysis. The data makes it possible to do real time blogosphere analysis of anything and everything from entertainment and celebrities to news and politics. Existing search engines can utilise data already in their index for spinoffs like this, or third party companies can mine the data of these search engines through open APIs. There are also countless possibilities for combining user-generated data to track the activities of individual or groups. Privacy is the subject of another session of this workshop and I won’t go into it here.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ,!Susanne Koch owns and edits Pandia.com with her husband Per. Pandia is a web
site and blog dedicated to web search, the search engine industry and search engine optimisation. Susanne Koch works as a senior adviser in the Educational Technology Group at the University of Oslo, Norway.!

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IPTS Workshop: Socio-Economic Challenges of Search

! Content from the Social Web facilitates online advertising
With the exception of enterprise search, web search and search related spinoffs are free. Contextual ads are the bread and butter of the search engine business. These ads do not only appear one the search engine result pages, but on third party sites that get a percentage of the revenue from the ads they host. User-generated content provides ever-increasing space for ads. What’s more, social web sites and services are often organised as folksonomies that tag and organize user-generated content. These tags could provide useful clues for contextual advertising.

New technologies will change the Social Web and search
Mobile technologies provide a rapidly growing user base for the participatory Web. In parts of the world where Internet access is not readily available due to geographical challenges or lack of funds to invest in infrastructure, mobile technology is the way online for millions, if not billions of people. This is a relatively recent development facilitated by so-called smart phones and web applications designed especially to do common online tasks on a mobile phone. This development also leads to increased web use by existing users and consequently to more user-generated content. Smart phones are typically used less for making phone calls and more for search related activities like finding directions, searching for nearby restaurants or for restaurant reviews. Many new mobile phones have GPS and some of these have cameras geo-tagging capabilities. This opens a whole new niche of location specific web based services: sharing information, finding friends or likeminded people in the area and searching for local information. These new services and their rapidly growing user base finally make mobile marketing seem worthwhile. The defining characteristic of mobile marketing is that the advertiser can reach consumers in a specific location. This gives the term contextual advertising a whole new meaning. Face and spoken word recognition in search demands a lot of processing power and hence, it has only recently become a possibility for end users. At the moment of writing Google is testing face recognition not in Google image search, but in its free image tools Picasa and Picasa Web Albums.2 Spoken word recognition has been available for some time for podcasts through services like RocketNews3 and Everyzing (formerly Podzinger4). These services now even index and search the audio content of online video. Google is currently testing a similar tool called GAudi5.

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http://www.pandia.com/sew/713-google-picasa-can-recognize-faces-now-what.html

.!http://www.pandia.com/sew/196-rocketnews-now-indexes-sound-and-video.html 0!http://philbradley.typepad.com/phil_bradleys_weblog/2008/09/google-audio-

/!http://www.pandia.com/sew/157-podzinger-podcast-searching-extraordinaire.html

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indexing---gaudi.html !

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IPTS Workshop: Socio-Economic Challenges of Search

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Search services like these multiply the size of the searchable Web by a factor that is unknown at the moment. One thing is certain, though: Due to relatively affordable digital video and photo cameras and to the popularity of services like Flickr and YouTube, the amount of this kind of user-generated content is growing quickly. When this content becomes searchable in new ways, this means new search spinoffs and new markets.

New technologies change the way we create the Web
Advanced visual presentation of Web content made possible due to standardisation, APIs, etc., will continue to inspire product innovation and make the social Web easier to use. • AJAX allows end users more control over how Web services are organised • RSS makes content independent of the web site it was originally published on • Microformats6 are set to make it to detect information like contact information, events, reviews and more (much like your browser now detects RSS feeds). These technologies encourage modularity of Web content and the ability to migrate or embed it from one web site or service to another. In this way new technology is tearing down the customary silos between applications. This development has already resulted in a multitude of services that lets a user gather and organise information. These can be RSS readers, personalised start pages or widgets that embed information from e.g. a social network into a blog or web page. All this freedom at the hands of the users sets information free, so to speak, and in some cases free from the service it originated in. • • Search results can be turned into web content. If we include SAAS and content delivery into a wider search engine business concept (like Google and Yahoo do) even more information can be made available through RSS (e.g. images from Flickr, blog posts and commentaries from Blogger).

Not all of these adoptions can be considered search in a narrow sense, but they certainly help users find relevant content. It is a trivial matter to monetise these services directly, but indirectly, they will drive users to the services provided by these companies.

Social Web and personalized search
For years search engines have taken your IP number into account to deliver search results relevant to your general location. Now, search engines have a plethora of sources available to personalise web search. If you have a Google account, Google will store information about your search and browsing history and add this information to their algorithm to provide you with search results that match your interests (there are obvious privacy concerns here, which are outside the scope of this article).

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IPTS Workshop: Socio-Economic Challenges of Search

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This information is being supplemented with even more data from cloud computing: If you store your bookmarks in Google Bookmarks or your RSS feeds in Google Reader. Nsyght is a British start-up that lets you import bookmarks from one or more sources and then perform web search based on the preferences that can be derived from them. These are two applications of data from the Social Web on web search. More are bound to come as users get used to having their “Personal Web” (cfr. the discussion above about how technologies change the way we surf the Web).

Suggestions, industry level
• To conquer the global market, relevant language and culture skills must be developed. o English is key for those who wish to compete on the important North American market. This bears mentioning in order to emphasize that this extends beyond the language of the search interface. Employees in key positions have to a real command of the language and the companies need to develop a true understanding of local culture. o But success is not all about conquering the English-speaking world. For European search companies to become truly global, they also need to develop competencies for all relevant geographical areas. Firms who aim to compete on the Social Web will benefit from including arts, humanities and social sciences in their technology development. This is due to the centrality of interaction and communication. There is need for standards for interoperability between networks, i.e. that the network of friends and associates established on one network could be available on another without the need to invite them all again. This might be an area that could benefit from an EU initiative. The business model that has developed around Web 2.0 and the Social Web typically requires a start-up and spinoffs to launch a beta version of its product and recruit users before VC funding is a real possibility. If more preseed capital were made available to more fledgling search companies, this would strengthen the industry.

Suggestions, policy level
• • Innovation policy measures could be developed nationally to support the development of relevant ICT clusters. Innovation support could be channelled through CIP and the Framework Program. This could include market pull initiatives, especially new services in the area where Web 2.0 and search overlaps. Technology push initiatives could include the long-term development of new advanced technologies. There is a need for educational programs in primary to tertiary education as well as life long learning that increase the digital literacy of the general public. There are several reasons for this: o It engenders social equality and strengthens democracy

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IPTS Workshop: Socio-Economic Challenges of Search

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o It may stimulate recruitment to relevant ICT disciplines o It gives the ICT industry access to skilled workers o It will increase the market for search and Social Web services A stronger focus on data security and consumer privacy to engender trust in the public is required. The new mash-up culture is changing the way we think about intellectual property rights. This leads to a need for revision of the definition of fair use of copyrighted material.

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