Interview with Udi Manber vice president in charge of search quality for Google. Mr. Manber engineers search engine results pages on Google to defy spammers, improve quality and provide the best user experience for information retrieval.
Search engines face the same problem of exponential data growth, but also increased users expectations. Searchers are no longer content just to find some information, they want precise results, without having to perform multiple searches.
Does the increase in information make the job of search exponentially harder because the volume of material is so high, or easier because of the increased linkage of information?
I think some of it is easier, but overall it’s harder, because people’s expectations are so high. Ten years ago, when you found anything, it was a miracle. Okay, I shouldn’t say a miracle, but a surprise: “Hey, look at this! I got what I wanted.” Today, if you don’t find everything you’re looking for, then something is wrong. And that’s the way we look at it, too. If your question is clear, you should get the answer. But now we’re getting into a situation where the questions are no longer always clear. People want more complicated information, and that’s much harder.
Here is a great question about how paid ads are segregated from natural search
You have nothing to do with the advertising side, but is there a sort of “church and state” separation between the advertising side and what you do?
Yes, I told you we launched our 450 improvements. When we decide to launch something, we have a weekly meeting where all those things come together and we look at all the evaluations and we make decisions—revenues and any effects on ads do not come into those meetings. We don’t even know what the effects are. We make the decisions solely based on how good it is for search, how good it is for users. The ads are on a different part of the page, and the ad people, I assume, do the same kind of thing and try to improve the ads.
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(Photograph by James Duncan Davidson/O’Reilly Media, via Wikimedia Commons/Flickr)