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Sunday, October 17, 2004
Can Google Take The Answer Engine To New Heights?
Many people use Google as an answer engine, not a search engine. They use it to find particular answers to a particular question. And, as any expert will tell you, you'd probably be better off asking an actual expert. Searching Google for "best digital camera" just turns up ads and online stores. You can't actually find the best digital camera on Google. But its more than just that. There is a lot of research that could be done faster and better off of Google, whether on federated search engines (topic-specific engines) or with actual people, whether online or off. The easy answer is "Just go and do it off of Google", but I thought it might be interesting to imagine a way Google actually could get you all that information.

What if Google could utilize the power of all its services to ensure you could find experts out there who could help you? What if you could have Google find you not just the most popular sites on the web for digital cameras, but the most popular digital camera experts on Orkut, questions on that topic on Google Answers, relevant groups on Google Groups, and links to Google Local searches for relevant experts at libraries and universities, plus public records repositories you can check out?

Google has a lot of resources that can be combined in powerful ways. Sure, Google wants you to rely on those services yourself, but simply providing a list of links to point out to users the connections they may not make in their own minds. Take a look at Google Answers. How many times is the answer "Ask a librarian"? (about 300 times) How many questions could be answered faster by checking with a phone call to an expert or chatting with a live one on library sites like the New York Public Library's? How many people don't realize they have a friend of a friend on Orkut who is considered an expert on what they want to know?

Google can benefit a lot if integrating its services takes it's reputation to knew levels. Right now, academics complain that too many people rely entirely on Google when they should be looking in the real world. Google should beat that argument before it gets popular by showing that you really can find anything on Google, just not necessarily with Google Search.

Interesting doctored screenshot -- I like the bit with Orkut.
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