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See Inside February 2005

Seeking Better Web Searches

Deluged with superfluous responses to online queries, users will soon benefit from improved search engines that deliver customized results
BARRAGE



NEIL BRENNAN

In less than a decade, Internet search engines have completely changed how people gather information. No longer must we run to a library to look up something; rather we can pull up relevant documents with just a few clicks on a keyboard. Now that "Googling" has become synonymous with doing research, online search engines are poised for a series of upgrades that promise to further enhance how we find what we need.

New search engines are improving the quality of results by delving deeper into the storehouse of materials available online, by sorting and presenting those results better, and by tracking your long-term interests so that they can refine their handling of new information requests. In the future, search engines will broaden content horizons as well, doing more than simply processing keyword queries typed into a text box. They will be able to automatically take into account your location--letting your wireless PDA, for instance, pinpoint the nearest restaurant when you are traveling. New systems will also find just the right picture faster by matching your sketches to similar shapes. They will even be able to name that half-remembered tune if you hum a few bars.

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