Imagine a world where search engines proactively send recommended articles, people and companies to their users — and all of these recommendations are extremely helpful and relevant. This is an example of using context for discovery, and it’s the future of the Internet.
Unfortunately, today’s search engines aren’t mind readers. Not even close. It’s not until the user begins typing the information they’re looking for that the search engine begins to “think.”
But what if the search engine could begin thinking before the user? What if a search engine could take into account the many facets of our lives — our browsing history, our calendar events, our personal connections, etc. — then provide recommendations for us that are unique, relevant and personalized?
What if a search engine could do the work for us before we began typing?
Thankfully, things are beginning to change for the better. The Internet will soon be about context and discovery, increasing its focus on serving up content consumers don’t know they need yet.
Limitations Of The Current Web
There are three top shortcomings of the current web.
You can’t personalize siloed data. Personalization is primarily driven through targeting, but when data is stuck in silos like LinkedIn and Facebook, we’re unable to synthesize this information into useful connections. There’s no one platform out there collecting and analyzing siloed data, and this leads to a less comprehensive understanding of one’s connections.
As network technology gets better, networks will be able to analyze relationships between people’s data and find correlations across multiple platforms.
For example, a person’s current Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn data might not accurately reflect that person’s interests, expertise or background. Only by combining data across multiple media can we begin to get a more complete picture of an individual.
People are treated like keywords. Rich connections start with social data. LinkedIn and Facebook do a great job of collecting this information, but until recently, they’ve only used it to create a limited, closed-off ecosystem. As a result, Internet users don’t fully understand how their social data from LinkedIn and Facebook can be utilized for a fuller understanding of an individual.
For instance, let’s say that “automobiles” is a keyword with which somebody is associated. That person might be a driver, a car collector, an engineer, a salesperson or any combination of these things. Our business goals change depending on the person’s true connection to the word “automobile.”
Without understanding how a person relates to a particular keyword, our ability to leverage that knowledge is limited.
Page rankings are standardized, not personalized. In today’s model, group analytics determine page rankings. For example, when a user types the word “java” into Google, the engine doesn’t know whether he’s looking for a coffee shop, an island or a programming language. Thus, Google returns a standardized set of results — limited personal data or possible intent aren’t factored into the equation at all.
Personalized page rankings will allow for much more effective search results and advertisements. For business leaders, this might mean the difference between locating a lead that’s generically useful — like a senior decision maker — and a lead that’s useful for the leader’s particular business — like a senior decision maker in the same city and industry.
With these shortcomings in mind, let’s look at how the future outlook of the web will overcome these challenges.
In The Future, Context Is Key
The future of the Internet is all about context, and that future isn’t far away. There’s already been an uptick in context-rich systems hitting the market that allow data to be tailored to specific customer situations.
Tools like Charlie give people information about each other before they even meet, and Crystal Knows is a service that analyzes public data to tell users how to best communicate with specific individuals via email and verbal correspondence.
Google is also getting in on the action. The company’s acquisition of Timeful will only mean great things for the optimization of Gmail into a context-heavy, useful resource, and its new Now on Tap feature will act as a link between apps to serve up the right information to users at the right time.
Everything in tech is moving toward predictive pre-search, understanding user intent and surfacing relevant info based on this data.
Building A Future Of Context
Before we can fully embrace this future, we need to accomplish three things.
Find a way to maximize network intelligence. Finding the right data is just the first step; we need to bridge the gaps and boost our network intelligence. Data by itself is meaningless. Its true value is in the insights we extract from it. Currently available platforms are simply not getting the job done.
In the future, networks will have the ability to react to data’s context, not just the data itself. Context will be determined by a combination of four data layers:
- A device layer: where devices communicate with one another
- An individual layer: information about browsing history, location history and online records
- A social layer: links people across social platforms
- An environmental layer: information about current conditions, such as nearby businesses, streets and the weather
Develop cross-platform, universal personal profiles. Every piece of information about individual users needs to be aggregated into one place. This is the only way to fully understand the context of each user and gain a dynamic understanding of his characteristics and needs.
For example, if you search for a project manager, you won’t see the same project managers that business leaders in other industries are seeing. Instead, your results will be personalized with the information the platform has about you, such as your geographic location, your job experience, your likes and dislikes and the brands you follow.
Gain a semantic understanding of user data. It’s time to take a step forward in proactively developing insights on users based on the context of who they are and what they’re likely seeking.
Companies like Refresh.io, Rapportive, and FullContact help us organize social data, but they lack the context that’s required to really unlock the data’s usefulness. We need to reinvent the Internet experience and personalize it within the context of what’s relevant to each person.
The new Internet will stop blanketing all users under one category and start understanding why certain websites are more relevant to certain people. It will be a world where you can type, “Whom do I need to know at Dropbox?” and have the most relevant faces appear right before you.
This will be a world where your customers come to you.