If you want any information/data, you put a query (one or more words describing what you want) in an internet search engine, and it helps you in finding relevant websites having the desired information. In short, a search engine helps you find the source of the information and not the information itself. Currently, this is more or less how almost all search engines work.
However, search engines are evolving. Taking clues from current research, beta versions of newly launched search engines and limited search features provided by some of the existing search engines, we will soon have search engines which will provide answer to our questions, the data/information we want, rather than directing is to a list of potential sources.
Just to give a feel of the things to come, try Googling “convert 500 INR to USD” and along with a long list of search results (websites which can help you answer this question), you also get the exact conversion, calculated by Google. Also try “Current Time in Dubai”, “population of India”, “GDP of China”, and “Share Price Satyam”, and you will find Google answering your questions. This, at a much advanced level, is going to be the future of internet search.
Recently launched Wolfram Alpha, tagged as a “Computational Knowledge Engine” rather than a Search Engine, gives you an indication of the kind of search facilities people are trying to build. According to their own words, Wolfram Alfa “is the first step in an ambitious, long-term project to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone.”
Although at a very primitive stage (the engine fails to understand many queries), Wolfram Alfa gives interesting results in some cases. To see some interesting stuff, try putting the name of a city, a date, or name of two stocks. The Genomics and Molecular Biology Section provides some really awesome search options.
Another cool development in the field of search is Google Squared. Google Squared is a search tool that helps you quickly build a collection of facts from the Web for any topic you specify. Facts about your topic are organized as a table of items and attributes. Try searching “MBA colleges in India”, “Consulting Companies in India” or “Bollywood Heroines”. More about Google Squared here
I don’t know how the internet search future likely to shape up, but definitely, I am looking forward to taking the help of both Wolfram Alfa and Google Squared in doing my assignments.
PS: There is a Google Lab Experiment on Image Search. It’s primitive, but raises hope that a useable image based search may become a reality very soon.