Eric Schmidt Confirms Google Is Off Track

Last week it was Peter Norvig admitting that Google has missed the opening rounds of the battle for the social web (see Google’s Biggest Mistake: The Rise Of The Social (Post Search) Web), and this week his boss confirms that Google is still off in algorithm land instead of understanding the social dimension of the web:

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.: Google and the Search for the Future

The day is coming when the Google search box—and the activity known as Googling—no longer will be at the center of our online lives. Then what? “We’re trying to figure out what the future of search is,” Mr. Schmidt acknowledges. “I mean that in a positive way. We’re still happy to be in search, believe me. But one idea is that more and more searches are done on your behalf without you needing to type.”

“I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions,” he elaborates. “They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”

Let’s say you’re walking down the street. Because of the info Google has collected about you, “we know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are.” Google also knows, to within a foot, where you are. Mr. Schmidt leaves it to a listener to imagine the possibilities: If you need milk and there’s a place nearby to get milk, Google will remind you to get milk. It will tell you a store ahead has a collection of horse-racing posters, that a 19th-century murder you’ve been reading about took place on the next block.

Says Mr. Schmidt, a generation of powerful handheld devices is just around the corner that will be adept at surprising you with information that you didn’t know you wanted to know. “The thing that makes newspapers so fundamentally fascinating—that serendipity—can be calculated now. We can actually produce it electronically,” Mr. Schmidt says.

The idea that machines will tell us what to do next is chilling, rather than liberating. Yes, we will use social tools that harness the millions of activities of our social circles and scenes, but our affiliation with others is where we will find meaning, not some functional result served up by Google or Facebook or Twitter.

Meaning is the new search.

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