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We’re Still in the First Generation of Search Engines. Here’s What Could Be Next. – ReadWrite

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Nate Nead


Run a search for anything right now, using Google or your preferred search engine. Pay attention to the features of the search engine results pages (SERPs) you encounter. How fast did they appear? What do they look like? What kinds of information are you presented with? 

If you ran a similar search in, say 2002, how different would the layout look? How different would the experience be? 

As someone who was conducting lots of searches in 2002, I can tell you we’ve come a long way in terms of design, usability, and overall performance. And yet, I’d still say we’re in the “first generation” of search engines. 

How can I make this claim? And if this is the first generation, what would the second generation look like? 

A Short History of Search Engines

Let’s start with a short history of search engines. How did we get to this point and how much innovation have we truly seen? 

Search engines began to emerge in the 1990s but exploded in popularity with the launch of Google in 1997. Within a few years, Google’s seamless and minimalistic experience led it to be the search engine of choice for most of the population online. For the record, it remains the most popular search engine in the world by far (despite a handful of interesting new competitors, like DuckDuckGo). 

Originally, Google’s search algorithm functioned with an algorithm called PageRank. It would estimate the perceived authority, or trustworthiness, of various sites based on the links pointing to them – including the quality and quantity of such links. Sites with lots of inbound links from other high-authority sources could be considered trustworthy and were ranked higher. Additionally, Google would consider the context of each webpage, using user queries as a guide to find on-topic content. 

This led to heavy abuse from webmasters around the world. Stuffing keywords and spamming links were common ways to manipulate the system and ultimately rank higher than the competition. 

In response, Google began releasing a series of regular updates, all designed to improve the average user’s search experience and provide them with better results. Many of these updates improved the quality standards used by Google to calculate relevance and authority of websites; for example, clear link spam became disregarded (with the link spammers penalized) and good content became rewarded more than bad content. 

Other updates sought to make the search experience more robust. Over time, Google has expanded the search engine’s functionality and purpose with local search, business entries, reviews, images, embedded videos, news stories, and sometimes, direct information on the topic you’re interested in. There are even AI-based elements of Google search that continually self-improve to better serve users. These all functionally expand the capacity of search without interfering with the core experience. 

Because of changes like these, Google is a totally different beast than it was in 1997. But in some ways, it hasn’t changed much at all. 

The Core Search Experience

This is why I believe we’re still well within the bounds of the “first generation” of online search. We can do a lot more with search now than we have before – but the core mechanics of the search experience are still instantly recognizable, and in many ways, function just as they did 20+ years ago. 

For example, when you want to search for something online, you still (typically) pull up a search engine, enter your query, and browse through a list of entries to find what you’re looking for. There are growing exceptions to this, which I’ll cover in the next section, but this is the primary search experience and the way we typically think about searching. 

When Google (and other search engines) fetch results, they still consider the same broad criteria: relevance and authority. The parameters for what constitutes relevance and authority may have evolved, but the basics are the same as they’ve ever been. A site with lots of inbound, authoritative links and contextually relevant material will easily climb to the top of the SERPs. 

Similarly, as a user, you can generally expect the same kind of experience when perusing results. You can take a look (or listen) at Google’s top suggestion for your query, or leaf through the myriad results that also turn up for your search. 

We’ve come to expect that this is the only real way to search for things online. But could a second generation of search fundamentally change how this works? 

Hints at the Second Generation 

Right now, there are some promising candidates that could fundamentally change how we search; they’re peppered into our existing, core search experience. 

For example: 

  • The Knowledge Graph and rich answers. Over the past few years, Google has stepped up its efforts to provide users with direct answers, rather than having them comb through websites. The Knowledge Graph sometimes gives you immediate information on your topic of choice. Other times, you’re presented with a “rich answer” pulled directly from a website that Google feels is most authoritative on the subject. In the future, we may be doing less browsing, and instead accepting Google’s best choices – at least with some topics. 
  • Smart speakers and voice search. Smart speakers with personal digital assistants like Alexa are another potential avenue for development. Voice search evolved from becoming a gimmicky, annoying, and incompetent function to being seamlessly integrated into our conversations when we want it. Voice-based search, if it advances, could introduce us to new ways of browsing the internet and engaging with online content. It could even open the door to other physical modes of search, such as searching with gestures, eye movements, or body language. 
  • The internet of things and distributed search functionality. The internet of things is also seeing so much momentum that the term itself is falling out of the common lexicon. Most households in the United States have dozens of digital, internet-connected devices, all of which can search in their own way. A distributed search feature, or one that can be easily used from device to device, could be in our future. 
  • Data and personalization. We’ve also seen big increases in the reliance of search engines on personal data. Search results are formulated in part based on your personal history and interests. In the future, this may replace PageRank-style systems as the primary mode of consideration when formulating results, sparking the growth of fundamentally new, second-generation engines. 
  • Complete ground-up innovation. What’s most exciting is the promise of a complete, ground-up innovation, forcing us to rethink search entirely. Such a move would require a massive leap forward in terms of technology and a lot of luck – since many people would be reluctant to transition to a new system. This may prove difficult with the current state of the internet, but if websites and pages are fundamentally upgraded or redrawn, the way we search will surely follow.

However, there are some caveats to keep in mind when considering the next generation of search. Here’s a big one: most companies aren’t interested in starting completely from scratch. Google has nearly 25 years of data, experience, and investment in a very particular mode of search. While they could carry over some of it to draw up plans for a new type of search 

A Vision of the Future of Search 

So what does the future of search look like? It’s hard to say. There’s a good chance we’ll remain in this first generation, with iterative tweaks and improvements, for another decade or two. But sooner or later, some genius entrepreneur will come along to disrupt the way we do things – or maybe one of the existing tech giants will step up to teach the world how to search in a new way, from the ground up. And when that time comes, we’ll look back at our current search capabilities with the same humor and nostalgia that we look back on film projectors and VHS tapes. 

Nate Nead

Nate Nead is the CEO & Managing Member of Nead, LLC, a consulting company that provides strategic advisory services across multiple disciplines including finance, marketing and software development. For over a decade Nate had provided strategic guidance on M&A, capital procurement, technology and marketing solutions for some of the most well-known online brands. He and his team advise Fortune 500 and SMB clients alike. The team is based in Seattle, Washington; El Paso, Texas and West Palm Beach, Florida.

Politics

Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending

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Google eyed for $2 billion Anthropic deal after major Amazon play


London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.

According to an Oct. 10 tech.eu report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.

The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:

“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”

The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:

“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”

The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.

The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.

Featured Image Credit: Photo from Kennek.io; Thank you!

Radek Zielinski

Radek Zielinski is an experienced technology and financial journalist with a passion for cybersecurity and futurology.

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Politics

Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs

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Deanna Ritchie


As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.

Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI

In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.

According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.

One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.

To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.

Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Google DeepMind; Pexels; Thank you!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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Politics

UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations

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Deanna Ritchie


As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.

Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation

To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.

The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.

Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.

The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba; Pexels; Thank you!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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