Yesterday, the WWW 2010 conference featured a panel with representatives of Yahoo! (Andrei Broder – Fellow and VP, Search & Computational Advertising, Yahoo! Research), Bing (Barney Pell – Partner, Search Strategist for Bing, Microsoft), Google (Andrew Tomkins – Director of Engineering at Google Research), and academia (Marti Hearst – Professor, School of Information, University of California-Berkeley) on the current state of search on the web. The title was meant to be provocative, but I doubt that anyone in the room thought that this was a solved problem. I wasn’t at the conference, but was able to follow it on Twitter and through a video feed kindly provided by Wayne Sutton. A persistent recording of the event is available through qik by Kevin Marks, although the audio is rather faint. (Wayne’s feed had great audio, but the panelists were sitting down, and were blocked by the podium!)
The panel covered a lot of ground, and some of this has already been summarized by Jeff Dalton on his blog. In short, the big search engines are moving beyond the top 10 links and exploring additional capabilities — both in the ranking algorithms and in the style of interaction — to satisfy a broader range of information needs.