The Web, they say, is leaving the era of search and entering one of discovery. What’s the difference? Search is what you do when you’re looking for something. Discovery is when something wonderful that you didn’t know existed, or didn’t know how to ask for, finds you. When it comes to search, there’s a clear winner – a $145 billion company called Google (Charts).
But there is no go-to discovery engine – yet. Building a personalized discovery mechanism will mean tapping into all the manners of expression, categorization, and opinions that exist on the Web today. It’s no easy feat, but if a company can pull it off and make the formula portable so it works on your mobile phone – well, such a tool could change not just marketing, but all of commerce.
"The effect of recommender systems will be one of the most important changes in the next decade," says University of Minnesota computer science professor John Riedl, who built one of the first recommendation engines in the mid-1990s. "The social web is going to be driven by these systems."