As more and more content is becoming available on the web, the way in which we search for and discover new content is evolving. Over the years content discovery has developed into it’s own life force, starting out with online magazines and moving into simple search engines and web portals such as AOL and Yahoo!, evolving into super search engines like Google and finally social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. What is the next step in the evolution of content discovery? Read our predictions below.
Today, search engines are still the predominant source when it comes to content discovery. According to a Nielsen survey in the fall of 2009, around 37% of web surfers still used search engines as their initial source when searching for new information online. Search engines were followed by web portals like Yahoo! and AOL, which were followed by niche websites and social media sites such as Wikipedia, blogs, Facebook and Twitter landed at the bottom of the barrel.
From Nielsen’s data, it is clear that search engines will remain a key tool in the area of content discovery for the near future. However, as more and more videos, pictures and other content are uploaded to the web search results will become more and more crowded and vague and searchers will want more reliable sources for content recommendation. There will simply be too much content to sift through with a search engine. We will need some alternate way of deciding what is worth looking at and what should be overlooked.
The obvious place to look for answers is social media and the social graph. By tying social networks into basic search, users will be able to view search results ranked according to their social graph. If a number of your friends and colleagues have watched a video or read an article and provided positive feedback (i.e. a “like” via Facebook), then this video or article will get priority in your search results. This can be a great way for web surfers to find great content in virtually any arena.
Ultimately, we may not even have to search for content at all to have relevant websites, videos, pictures and articles delivered to us. Many sites are already employing content recommendation engines today. For instance, when you watch a video on YouTube you will see similar videos in the sidebar and the YouTube homepage will recommend videos for you, based on what you have watched in the past. Many websites use similar content recommendation systems, and I can see a future in which our entire web experience is used for content recommendation and discovery.
Imagine a future in which our entire web history is tracked and content is delivered to us based on all of the websites we visit, content we read and videos we watch. We could each have our own personal homepages that offer new videos, posts and other content on a daily basis, based upon the topics we spend the most time consuming on the Web, as well as what is popular in our own social networks and more. We could turn on our computers, log onto the Internet and be greeted with our own personalized web magazines, filled with all the most relevant and interesting information to us on the web.
What do you think the future of content discovery looks like? If you had to paint a picture of this future, what would it be?