Consider online search. Twenty-five years ago it was hardly a blip on the radar screen. Picking up momentum, paid search soon began to rival traditional forms of advertising, as companies took advantage of promo programs offered by Google and others that aligned neatly with consumers when they were on the hunt for products, services and solutions..
Google has attracted billions upon billions of dollars in search advertising revenue, becoming one of the biggest corporations in the world, even as entire industries have grown up around optimizing companies’ website presence and relevance so as to rank highly in search query results.
And now, thanks to continuing technology evolution and the emergence of the Internet of Things, the next generation of search is now upon us – and it’s looking likely to make keyboards and touchscreens increasingly irrelevant within a few short years.
This past October, market forecasting firm Gartner came out with an interesting prediction: Within four years, it forecasts that ~30% of all searches will be carried out without a screen.
It’s happening already, actually. In web search, Amazon Echo answers voice queries, while the Bing knowledge and action graph allows Microsoft to provide answers to queries rather than a set of answer possibilities in the form of links as has been the case up to now.
Gartner envisions voice interactions overtaking typing in search queries because it is so much easier, faster and more intuitive for consumers. By eliminating the need for people to use eyes and hands for search and browsing, voice interactions improve the utility of web sessions even while multitasking takes on ever-increasing degrees of shared activity (walking, driving, socializing, exercising and the like).
Related to this, Gartner also predicts that one in five brands will have abandoned offering mobile apps by 2019. Already, many companies have found disappointing levels of adoption, engagement and ROI pertaining to the mobile apps they’ve introduced, and the prognosis is no better going forward; the online consumer is already moving on.
Gartner’s predictions go even further. It envisions ever-higher levels of what it calls “just-in-time knowledge” – essentially trading out searching for knowledge by simply getting answers to voice queries.
Speaking personally, this prediction concerns me a little. I think that some people may not fully grasp the implications of what Gartner is forecasting.
To me, “just-in-time knowledge” sounds uncomfortably close to being “ill-educated” (as opposed to “uneducated”). Sometimes, knowing a little bit about something is more dangerous than knowing nothing at all. Bad decisions often come from possessing a bit of knowledge — but with precious little “context” surrounding it.
With “just-in-time knowledge,” think of how many people could now fall into that kind of trap.