The Internet continues to churn our more and more choice for consumers. At the same time, it’s getting harder and harder for consumers to find what they are looking for. New techniques that seem be doing the most to address this issue provide more context to the discovery process. Here are three that jump to mind:
1. Vertical Scope. Vertical search engines take advantage of a narrow context (e.g., looking for an apartment in San Francisco) to offer more relevant functionality to the problem at hand. And when done well, they should look and feel more like an application anchored in search than what we think of as a stand-alone search engine. Shopping.com does this for online commerce. Kayak is doing this for travel. Oodle is doing this for classifieds.
2. Tagging. Tagging allows users to provide context either for themselves or for others. Obviously del.icio.us provides such a filter for finding web sites. Reviews are a form of tagging, and as such, InsiderPages provides a good filter for business directories. SPAM reporting is also form of tagging, and is very successfully used in the classifieds world by Craigslist to keep its market from getting clogged with SPAM and porn.
3. Social Networks. Social networks allow context to be established based on the people behind the tags (versus the content in the tag) whether it be people like me or people I know. As such, social network needs to appropriately align their context with context of the tags that they support. LinkedIn provides such social context to its tags which are online resumes & contact information. Fremont will soon introduce social context to classifieds market, recognizing that the person behind that roommate listing is a important piece of selection criteria.
Am I missing any? Let me know.