From Signal to Noise and Back Again

Om Malik had a great quote yesterday in his post titled “Can Serendipity Make you Rich?“:

If someone can become the Dolby of the web — remove the noise and give us clear sound — then they are going to make a lot of money. And when I say sound, I mean data that is truly useful.

If the first generation of Web navigation was directory (think Yahoo or DMOZ), and the second (current) generation is search (a.k.a. Google), the third generation will likely be some version of what Om’s talking about. Directory gave way to search when the sheer number and diversity of Web pages overwhelmed that highly structured approach. Search has dominated the discovery of text-centric Web publishing ever since. But continued geometric growth in content volume has added exponents thanks to new searchable media types (e.g., video, audio, images, animation), and new meta-data (especially location data, but also the social graph).

Luckily for Ray Dolby, he only had to figure out how to clean up audio signals for one “default” listener. To succed, the “Dolby” of the Web will have to filter each listener’s signal individually. My money’s on Google (their Personalized Search efforts are already down the chute in this direction), but the social vector is an interesting one to follow (we were big believers in this at Judy’s Book and actually trademarked the term “Social Search” back in 2004), and it will be fun to see where new entrants like Delver head with this idea.