The classic Web search experience, consisting of returning “ten blue links” in response to a short user query, is powered today by a mature technology where progress has become incremental and expensive. Furthermore, the “ten blue links” represent only a fractional part of the total Web search experience: today, what users expect and receive in response to a “web query” is a plethora of multimedia information extracted and synthesized from numerous sources on and off the Web. In consequence, we argue that the major technical challenges in Web search are now driven by the quest to satisfy the implicit and explicit needs of users, continuing a long evolutionary trend in commercial Web search engines going back more than fifteen years, moving from relevant document selection towards satisfactory task completion. We identify seven of these challenges and discuss them in some detail.
This is joint work with Andrei Broder and Yoelle Maarek, also from Yahoo! Research.