While perusing the Billblog written by Bill Thompson, one of my favourite writers on the net and technology, I came across an article on web searches. Bill has argued that we should all try and get off our addiction to Google as it's unhealthy for web searches to give a private company such control over them. It's a fair point, and I too have noticed that my google results seem to be diminishing in quality, with more bloat and advertising. But I'm addicted, and just what are the alternatives? None of the others I've tried are anywhere near as good.
This got me thinking about the future of web searching. Where do we go from here? The number of pages on the web grows daily, the amount of useful information is still far outweighed by the useless, not that I would want to change this (who am I, or indeed anyone else, to say what can and can't be published?). Then an idea struck me. Paid searches.
These are already about to some degree. But all the search engines make money from advertising in some form or another, and this has to taint our results. So why not charge us for web searches. It would be easy enough to do, give us a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly subscription charge for guaranteed advert free results. Now you may not get many personal subscribers, unless the cost is right. But say a fiver a month, for unlimited searches. I'd think about it.
The best way would be to charge per search, just a couple of pence each. But for that you's need micropayments at a level not currently available (see my post on this), and easy to execute (who'd want to fill in tons of details everytime?).
Imagine the extra services you could offer: paid content searching, specific area searching (eg business), notifications on new sites matching search terms you've requested, separate search engines for different purposes. The list is endless.
So, search engines, if you're listening, webbots if you're browsing, read this and take note: we still want better searches.