If there's a single technology in our space that demonstrates both revenue growth and steady evolution, it has to be search. Analysts continue to predict its pace of expansion outperforming that of the general information industry. Most recently, Outsell issued a report that predicts that search--which it refers to as search, aggregation and distribution services (SADS)—will grow at a combined annual growth rate of 18 percent this year and 17 percent through 2008, compared with 9.8 percent for the general information industry. It points to revenue projections of $37.6 billion this year and $59.6 billion in 2008.
And all this despite what Outsell says are changing attitudes about search. It believes that in the business-to-business arena, the traditional model of general search will peak after 2005 and then begin a decline as users turn to more focused and effective avenues for obtaining specific, business-critical information. Outsell further says the challenge for vendors is to meet new requirements for users, who will demand: specialized vertical search; content integrated into their important business applications; personalized, proactive content; as well as what it calls RSS-driven, self-aggregated content.
To be fair, search vendors are doing that ... and more: They are building entire new applications with search at the core. One of the early ones to do so was Intelliseek, which, with BrandPulse, essentially created brand and reputation management. It took that concept even further when it began crawling blogs to discover the buzz around issues, products and companies. Other firms have taken that concept and developed a new type of business intelligence. By mining unstructured information, they can create structured reports that measure and analyze all manner of business issues. The field is aggressive and competitive--just look at desktop search. A few years ago, it was a relatively unexplored area with only a few serious offerings available. Now, dozens of vendors have products on the market.
Search technology is not always homegrown--the potential of the U.S. market has long attracted foreign-based companies, and that doesn't show any sign of letting up. There are new companies entering the market all the time—in one recent week, I spoke with both a Russian search firm and one from France that will be introducing their products here.
It's further comforting to know that the source of search innovation will never dry up. Most of the technology originated in a university setting, and the developers either purchased their intellectual property back from the university for the commercial market or used it to launch their own nascent firm with like-minded partners. With that model already established, and with a never-ending supply of bright minds, search technology will never be stale.