Zite, the personalized magazine app for ipad is pretty cool. They aggregate personalized content from a web crawl, the same way content is aggregated in the indexes of search engines like Google and Bing. Zite then displays articles in reading mode, which makes a much better reading experience. However, the real interesting feature of Zite is the user’s ability to personalize their content.
So how can you customize your Zite content? Let me count the ways.
First, you can thumb-up or thumb-down the article itself. This is telling Zite whether you like the content of the particular post. The analog here would be +1 in Google or “like” in facebook.
Second, you can select “get more from.” To me, this is really the game changer. You can request more content from a particular source (website/blog) or a specific author.
Third, you can request more content on a particular subject.
And of course, sharing through Zite is seamless.
So what does this have to do with search? Everything.
For better of for worse, search is getting much more personalized. With the addition of social signals into algorithms, the recommendations of people you know are gaining visibility in search engine results pages. While not prominently advertised to the public, you can actually already do a lot of personalizing of your search results through your browser. It is my guess that this is about to change greatly.
If you think about Google Co-founder Larry Page’s description of the “perfect search engine” as something that “understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want,” then the Zite model for search seems even that much more likely.
If you think about it, Google tries to mathematically decipher relevancy & popularity to deliver you results. However, as they would freely admit, they haven’t come up with the perfect algorithm yet. Which means that they must make a choice. They can either stick to their “mathematics only” way, or ask users to help them understand what it is that they want. And really, they are already doing this (think user data, social signals, etc).
And so, don’t be surprised to see similar functionality on your search results page. Despite the potential filter side-effects of personalized search, it seems to me that this is the next logical progression for search. Besides, don’t we already change the channel, unfriend, unfollow, and block those that are feeding us messages that we don’t want? Furthermore, the filter effects of personalized results assume that search engine results are somehow “pure” which is completely inaccurate. All algorithmic search engines have popularity biases cooked right in.
I look forward to the ability to get more search results from my favorite authors and websites. How about you?