'Contextual search' monitors where you go on the web
Where you are and what you're doing increasingly play key roles in how you search the Internet. So much so that your search may just conduct itself.tech reviews Updated: May 07, 2013 15:15 IST
Where you are and what you're doing increasingly play key roles in how you search the Internet. So much so that your search may just conduct itself.
This concept, called "contextual search," is improving so gradually the changes often go unnoticed, and we may soon forget what the world was like without it, according to Brian Proffitt, a technology expert and adjunct instructor of management in the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business.
Contextual search describes the capability for search engines to recognize a multitude of factors beyond just the search text for which a user is seeking. These additional criteria form the "context" in which the search is run. Recently, contextual search has been getting a lot of attention due to interest from Google.
Utilizing contextual search, Google Now provides information based on location, and by accessing calendar entries and travel confirmation messages in Gmail accounts.
Available on Android for the last six months, Google Now was just released for the iPhone/iPad platform.
"You no longer have to search for content, content can search for you, which flips the world of search completely on its head," Proffitt, who is the author of 24 books on mobile technology and personal computing and serves as an editor and daily contributor for ReadWrite.com, one of the most widely read and respected tech blogs in the world, said.
"Basically, search engines examine your request and try to figure out what it is you really want," he said.
"The better the guess, the better the perceived value of the search engine. In the days before computing was made completely mobile by smartphones, tablets and netbooks, searches were only aided by previous searches.
"Today, mobile computing is adding a new element to contextual searches. By knowing where and when a search is being made, contextual search engines can infer much more about what you want and deliver more robust answers. For example, a search for nearby restaurants at breakfast time in Chicago will give you much different answers than the exact same search in Tokyo at midnight."
Context can include more than location and time. Search engines will also account for other users' searches made in the same place and even the known interests of the user.