Analysis of structured search/”information discovery” technology vendor Endeca and its products.
I believe there are two ways search will improve significantly in the future. First, since talking is easier than typing, speech recognition will allow longer and more accurate input strings. Second, search will be informed by much more persistent user information, with search companies having very detailed understanding of searchers. Based on that, I expect:
- A small oligopoly dominating the conjoined businesses of mobile device software and search. The companies most obviously positioned for membership are Google and Apple.
- The continued and growing combination of search, advertisement/recommendation, and alerting. The same user-specific data will be needed for all three.
- A whole lot of privacy concerns.
My reasoning starts from several observations:
- Enterprise search is greatly disappointing. My main reason for saying that is anecdotal evidence — I don’t notice users being much happier with search than they were 15 years ago. But business results are suggestive too:
- HP just disclosed serious problems with Autonomy.
- Microsoft’s acquisition of FAST was a similar debacle.
- Lesser enterprise search outfits never prospered much. (E.g., when’s the last time you heard mention of Coveo?)
- My favorable impressions of the e-commerce site search business turned out to be overdone. (E.g., Mercado’s assets were sold for a pittance soon after I wrote that, while Endeca and Inquira were absorbed into Oracle.)
- Lucene/Solr’s recent stirrings aren’t really in the area of search.
- Web search, while superior to the enterprise kind, is disappointing people as well. Are Google’s results any better than they were 8 years ago? Google’s ongoing hard work notwithstanding, are they even as good?
- Consumer computer usage is swinging toward mobile devices. I hope I don’t have to convince you about that one.
In principle, there are two main ways to make search better:
- Understand more about the documents being searched over. But Google’s travails, combined with the rather dismal history of enterprise search, suggest we’re well into the diminishing-returns part of that project.
- Understand more about what the searcher wants.
The latter, I think, is where significant future improvement will be found.
|Categories: Autonomy, Coveo, Endeca, Enterprise search, FAST, Google, Lucene, Mercado, Microsoft, Search engines, Speech recognition, Structured search||4 Comments|
I’ve been pretty skeptical about Inxight’s Awareness Server. My theory is that ordinary enterprise search engines can index remotely anyway, and they offer much better search functionality. Inxight’s Ian Hersey was kind enough to write in and offer two counter-arguments.
First, Ian points out that there are circumstances when, due to security and permissions, you can’t really index everything via one search engine. Specifically, he offers the government as an example. OK, I can see that in the government, with its classified and/or regulated silos. However, I have trouble thinking of many more examples. While there certainly are plenty of instances where a variety of organizations share information on a somewhat arms-length basis, it’s tough to think of such cases where federated text search would come into play.
Second, Ian in essence disputes my claim of inferior functionality. While implicitly conceding — as well he should! — that Inxight’s Awareness Server doesn’t do some things full-featured search engines do, he points out analytic features that may not be found in conventional search engine offering. The big one he calls out is faceted search — which of course was the core of Intelliseek, the acquisition Awareness Server came from. Hmm. Faceted search has a checkered history, with Excite and Northern Light being perhaps the most visible among many failures. On the other hand, it’s a great idea that keeps being tried, and some versions — notably Endeca’s — have turned out well.
I guess I’ll have to reserve judgment on that part until I look at Inxight’s product and see what they do and don’t actually have.
|Categories: BI integration, Business Objects and Inxight, Endeca, Enterprise search, Search engines||1 Comment|
The folks at Progress claim huge conversion rate benefits to EasyAsk, although unfortunately so far I’ve been unable to drill down and see what those numbers really mean. (Flagship customer = Land’s End.) Baynote makes more modest but still large claims. (Flagship customer = no big names that I’m aware of.) Endeca is clearly the market leader. (Flagship customers = Wal-Mart, Home Depot.) Mercado and Inquira are important players, at least in certain verticals.
I think it’s safe to say that e-commerce site navigation aids constitute a really important product category.