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Communications of the ACM


Reimagining Search

Reimagining Search, illustration


Ever since Gerard Salton of Cornell University developed the first computerized search engine (Salton's Magical Automatic Retriever of Text, or SMART) in the 1960s, search developers have spent decades essentially refining Salton's idea: take a query string, match it against a collection of documents, then calculate a set of relevant results and display them in a list. All of today's major Internet search engines—including Google, Amazon, and Bing—continue to follow Salton's basic blueprint.

Yet as the Web has evolved from a loose-knit collection of academic papers to an ever-expanding digital universe of apps, catalogs, videos, and cat GIFs, users' expectations of search results have shifted. Today, many of us have less interest in sifting through a collection of documents than in getting something done: booking a flight, finding a job, buying a house, making an investment, or any number of other highly focused tasks.


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