ZDnet reports on a panel at the Wharton Technology Conference in Philadelphia on ideas about the future of search according to "the big three" in the industry. There’s some striking disagreements on what path search interface and technology will be taking –
to Google, the big changes will be in the information architecture and analysis algorithms back-end of search engines. Yahoo says that they see the innovative techniques of "social search" will be the next big change – the ideas behind technology like Digg, which bases it’s front page stories on human votes.

MSN had a very different take on the next path:

Search engines have shot themselves in the foot by providing a search box, where users provide relatively little information. Over the next 5 years we will see significant improvements in how [user interfaces] operate.

Saleel Sathé, quoted by ZDnet.co.uk

MSN’s representative suggests that the path for a better search engine is through a richer user interface – one more like a human librarian, which will, presumably, interact with the user to refine and polish their search.

This idea may be great – it depends on how it’s structured. Already, there are search interfaces which are a mass of boxes, menus, and check boxes which allow you to construct very detailed searches – but I sincerely hope this is not what MSN is intending! Perhaps they’re looking at an AJAX style interface, where you can begin a search and continuously refine it to narrow your results live. Perhaps they want a truly interactive interface, which will ask you logical questions based on terms you enter to help you focus the search.

Perhaps the engineers at MSN have something incredible under their sleeves – or maybe they’re just looking to deviate from the "one search" model which Google has popularized. Either way, the future of search could have some interesting new