In this book the recognizes that the real story about the search engines is actually outside the admittedly fascinating geek arms race between the big players: what's important is what the very act of searching for information on the Internet means for business and consumer alike. The simple act of keying in a phrase to a search engine is carried out billions of times a day and in totality provides an unprecedented map of human desires. The commercial ramifications are obvious, but our culture and our access to information are also being transformed by the nature of search. Put it this way - once the Net becomes a daily part of your life, it's hard to imagine doing without it.
The most obvious example of the commercial gold in search queries is contextual advertising, those text ads that turn up next to your search results that are related to your query.
For now, though, search remains a huge success story - Google may well be about to have its own stock bubble popped, but the company is profitable and unlikely to be knocked off its leadership perch by Wall Street alone. Yahoo and MSN are moving into the contextual ad field, each looking to get the competitive edge to make advertisers and publishers alike use their particular system. Most importantly, all three are continually trying to find better ways to slice and dice the Database of Intentions to give you what you want quicker, simpler and faster. Google, to my mind, still remains out in front for innovation, constantly testing business boundaries and received wisdom, putting the user experience first and working backwards. In the last five years, it has continually gone its own way and managed to take the industry with it. But Yahoo and MSN and, indeed, people and companies we've never even heard of yet, are not to be underestimated. John Battelle's The Search provides a brilliant illustration that within five years everything in the search world can change absolutely. It has done so already once - it probably will do again.