John Battelle and Hans-Peter Brøndmo ponder the implications of "SuperGoogle" -- a search engine that "knows everything." But, they only deal with the obvious privacy issues. What neither discusses is the simple question: "What would it be good for?"
One thing that a "SuperGoogle" wouldn't be good for is providing businesses with competitive advantage. Once all is known and all have equal access to all that is known, knowledge itself loses much of its value -- it is reduced to a simple and ubiquitous commodity input. But, business advantage is rooted in the control of scarce resources. Traditionally, knowledge has been such a scarce resource and there are numerous examples of companies that have exploited a special access to knowledge to gain advantage. If knowledge becomes a commodity, businesses will have to look elsewhere for advantage.
If we had a "SuperGoogle," from where would businesses seek advantage? In answering this question, we may find the keys to understanding the most useful areas to pursue in developing new "search-related" technologies and business models. It seems fairly obvious that at least one of the "next" areas for innovation must be the tools and methods for analysis, integration, and fusion of commodity information. To date, this kind of technology hasn't received a great deal of attention outside a few specialist areas such as the financial markets, military intelligence, etc.
The history of information in the financial markets may provide a foretelling of what will happen in other information/knowledge based domains. Once, it was possible for certain traders to have a distinct advantage over others simply because they had faster or more complete access to information concerning prices and trading volumes. However, today, real-time financial information is almost universally available to everyone. The result is, of course, that the complexity of systems for the analysis of financial information has grown tremendously. Once, merely being able to access the data in a timely way gave advantage -- today, to gain advantage, you must have unique abilities to analyse the information more rapidly, with greater insight, or with methods not used by others.
Perhaps then, the "future of search" isn't even in "search" as we know it today. i.e. the future of search isn't really about building bigger, faster, more easily accessed collections of information. Perhaps, the real "future of search" is more to be found in methods of exploiting the results of search.