I just had this idea that could truly revolutionize search engines. Let’s start with the motivation:

What do we usually rely on search engines for? Answer-finding, correct? We are part of a generation that mindlessly presses CTRL + T to open a new tab in our browser of choice, points it to www.google.com and types away whatever question we need an answer for. Then comes the tedious process of sorting through all the results in hopes of truly finding the answer to what we’re looking for. Typically, in a good day, we will find a link that contains the answer to our question, use the answer and ditch the browser tab. Does this sound like something you do more than once a day? Well, then read on.

What if we could make this process better? Oftentimes, I’ll require the answer to my question more than once and most of the times I just can’t be bothered with bookmarking the page. Even because, most of the times, I forget that I bookmarked something and I end up going to Google to search for something I already have an answer for, buried within my bookmarks. So there’s clearly a problem here. I’m wasting time more than once to find answers for the same information and – drawing on my recently developed and work-in-progress Dutch skills – dat kan niet.

Why don’t we make search engines smarter? Let’s look at an example.

I’m a hobbyist guitar player and every now and then, I’ll go to Google and search for “soldier of love tab”. Then I’ll search through all the guitar tab sites and I finally find that one tab that is actually well written and faithful to the original song. Brilliant. I open it, I play it by myself once, I pretend to be an epic guitarist by playing along to the MP3 of the original and I close the tab feeling proud that I can play the guitar. But then, the next weekend comes and my girlfriend comes to visit. Of course, being the romantic guy that I am, I want to play for her but damn… it’s going to take me long to find that really good guitar tab again and alas, the mood is killed. BUT! What if the first time around, I could have told Google “this link contains the exact answer for ‘soldier of love tab’ ” so that whenever I searched again for this (or similar, e.g. ‘soldier of love chords’) string, Google would tell me “hey, you’ve searched for something similar before and you have previously defined answers for this question“. Wouldn’t this be great?

Wouldn’t it also be great if I could even mark specific segments of a result page as containing the answer for my question? Maybe sometimes I’d search “how to list ant targets on the command line?” and I’d select a specific snippet of a website where it says “ant -p” as the answer to my question. Then, whenever I’d search for it again, Google would give me THE answer rather than links to potential answers.

Then we could get crazy with it. Make it anonymously social! “Other users have searched for a similar question, these are the links they selected as answers“. Users, by adopting this technique for themselves, would be helping each other as well and soon, the millions (billions?) of people using conventional search engines could eventually turn Google from a result-based search engine into an answer-based one.

We would all spend less time searching and we’d all turn more productive by literally having the answers to everything we need at our fingertips.

That was the basic gist of my idea. Please, Google or Bing engineers, if you read this, you can take this idea. For free. I claim no royalties, copyrights or trademarks… but it’d be pretty cool if you told me about it in case you use it. Also, in roughly 3.5 years I’ll be finished with my Doctorate degree and I’ll be probably looking for a job. Keep that in mind, will you? 😉