It's hard to search smart when conventional search engines are so dumb. You type in your search, scroll through the results, and pray you'll find something useful. Why can't search engines do better?
They can, claims Joe Kraus. Kraus, 26, is the founder of Excite, which is second only to Yahoo in consumer reach. Kraus predicts that improvements in search engines will forever alter the way we use the Web. Here are some of the dramatic changes in the works.
"Search engines will increasingly predict what you want, even if it's not exactly what you typed," says Kraus.
Progress Report: Excite already does this. Search for "Microsoft" and look at the three links at the top of the screen (next to "Try these first"). Instead of simply giving you results from the Web, Excite offers a direct link to Microsoft's Web site, a link to its stock quote, and the ability to look up other sites related to the computing platform business.
"You'll be able to type something like 'I want to buy concert tickets in San Francisco' and get linked directly to Ticketmaster. You'll just type it as you say it."
Progress Report: Mixed results. The first link for the above search phrase is promising: http://www.ticketfinder.com . Other links include automotive classifieds and "Railroads in San Diego."
"Eventually other people's opinions about Web sites will influence the results of your search. We'll identify somebody you agree with on a lot of things, so when you do a search on Microsoft, we'll show you what that person liked first."
Progress Report: No sign of voting on Excite, but a form of the technology is already in use: see http://www.moviecritic.com for an example of how it works.
"Search engines will increasingly be known for helping people find other people with whom they want to communicate. When you type 'plastic surgery,' you'll get a list of plastic surgeons in your area, along with the search results."
Progress Report: Not there yet. About half of Excite's results are people offering their services, but these folks are spread out across the country. Try regional searches using sites such as San Francisco's http://www.CitySearch7.com — a search there found three Bay Area plastic surgeons.
Coordinates: Joe Kraus, email@example.com
A version of this article appeared in the October/November 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.