The Internet is so big that nobody even knows how big it is!
Most estimates show it to be over a trillion pages, a fact that demonstrates how the way we discover content on the Internet is more important than ever. But the way we have found content hasn’t changes that much we have basically operated within 2 radially different paradigms so far, the era of discovery for a short time and them a long period of search and now more recently a blend of search and social discovery.

But everything is about to change. The introduction of predictive computing will change everything for all of known history we have been in control of what we have looked for, soon things will be pushed our way, but how have we got here and what does it mean?

The First Paradigm

Portals and discovery

The early Internet was the portal of discovery; the home page of AOL or yahoo would be entry point of categories through which we navigate. It works quite well then, partly because the Internet was a billion times smaller, but mainly because we didn’t know better. Portals replicated the way we found content in a pre Internet world, rather like library with the Dewey decimal system

Second Paradigm

The birth of search
Google of course changed all that. The audacity of a black screen and a cursor putting us in control. What a crazy notion. And thus the era of discovery became the era of search, a total transformation in the way we navigate the world.

The first web was a curated experience with the portals in charge now switched to be a personal experience, with the searchers at the helm.
For all of the twists and turns to the internet, the rise of the visual web, the web 2.0 revolution, the rise of ecommerce and the mobile internet, search has stood the test of time well. For over a decade the idea of the user at the helm and a personal web experience has been key.

Search has of course improved and evolved, we now get improved search results based on our history, based on our location, and more impressively still, based on our social graph. You could argue that we're in a hybrid period in a blended world of search and discovery, but this time it's social discovery.

 We use Google for searching and Facebook and Twitter become the new portals. Yet this time the portals are socially curated content, it's our friends and hero's that guide our discovery.

Search is of massive importance for three reasons.

  1. It's the only  way to navigate the entire world of the internet.
  2. It's the best way to make money on the internet, search advertising has always been the number one revenue generator on the internet, it makes up more than half of Googles revenues and looks set to grow forever. It's quite simple, what better way to reach people than when they have asked for something.
  3. It's becoming even more important now we shift to an online world that is mainly accessed on mobile devices. In fact Mobile search is about as exciting as imaginable for a whole range of advertisers, hence charts like this.
    But so far nobody has talked about the 3rd Paradigm of the internet, the next step, the era of Anticipation.

Anticipatory suggestion
Google has perfected search, but they've also build the best known system for the collection and processing of data. Whether it's where we are, how we behave, where we live, how fast we are moving, what we have planned for that day, what we've been shopping for, what we've enjoyed, who we know, they know it all.

By some measures, Google know more about us that we do.

This brings about a profound reality. Until now every form of search has been pull based, rather like old email on phones, it's relied on us to be in control. Discovery may have been fast and accurate but it's still waited for our input.

Predictive computing is push based, it does not wait for us, anticipatory computing is a world where suggestions are made to you just at the same time you realize you want things. In the same way that push based email revolutionized mobile working, push based discovery will revolutionize what we used to call search.

Predictive computing is already here, but it's a sleeping giant that nobody is talking about.
Google now is already starting to make information cards appear on your home-screen based on your behavior.

Amazons Fire TV already downloads content it predicts you may want to watch, to reduce download times.

MindMeld is a video conferencing app that offers relevant information as you talk to someone.
The smart Thermostat Nest learns your behavior and changes conditions based on your predicted movements.

This is just the beginning, we're entering a whole new world where information is suggested to us. If you thought search was lucrative for advertisers you are about to be amazed.
Search offered business the chance to tell people about your product or service when people were searching for something relevant, which is understandably of incredible value. But what about decisions made without people even asking for help.

Think about it, how many times are you thinking about something but don't search for help?  Do you always do a Google search as you are walking down the street and looking for a place to eat? When you need a taxi are you always searching online? There are millions of moments in every day where you have a need, are open to messaging but won't do a search.

Now it's likely you're thinking but in those moments I won't be online, but perhaps that may change, now the world of online and offline are blending together, we're attached to our smartphones but we still need to chose to look at them.

An ambient layer is coming, a world with extra screens via Google Glass or Google watches, predictive computing will be an ambient layer of assistance that doesn't make decisions for us but merely offers suggestions. Perhaps it's 1pm and you are walking around, maybe your watch should show you a nearby place to eat that it knows you'd like.

Perhaps it's 7pm and about to rain, perhaps Google should be telling you about a taxi company.
You're driving to a destination and it's late, perhaps hotels should be suggested to you with live pricing and special offers via your in car GPS.

We could soon be entering a world where we never need to search because everything we need is already there.