Forget Google, social search is all about mobile

New research from Aardvark shows higher social search use on the mobile side

There’s considerable chatter about a seismic shift in search. A lot of it’s overblown, but the central idea is intriguing: Google’s biggest problem — the one that keeps company execs up at night — isn’t Bing or Ask or traditional search. The real threat is social search.

Or so the thinking goes …

O'Reilly Where 2010 ConferenceI’ve always dismissed the notion that Twitter or Facebook could knock Google from its throne. Those services are built for speed, not depth. And even though Google is a huge organization, it still has the agility and forward-thinking to fend off attackers.

Earlier today, I ran across a data point in Aardvark’s new social search report that I find way more interesting than Google’s theoretical downfall. It’s not whether social search will displace Google. It’s how — and where — social search can actually be useful

TechCrunch’s breakdown of the Aardvark report includes this bit of analysis:

[Aardvark’s] average query volume was 3,167.2 questions per day, with the median active user asking 3.1 questions per month. Interestingly, mobile users are more active than desktop users. The Aardvark team attributes this to users wanting quick, short answers on their phones without having to dig for anything. They also think people are more used to using more natural language patterns on their phones. [Emphasis added.]

The real seismic shift in social search will come from its commingling with mobile applications.

Why? Because mobile is a different animal than the desktop. No one wants to fumble around for queries. People on the go don’t have time to scan listings. The screens are too small, and the input mechanisms — improved as they are — are way too clunky.

Mobile search has to be concise and targeted. Results that emanate from a trusted network of friends and associates certainly fit that bill. Toss in more geolocation features and improved speech recognition, and the utility of mobile-based social search could get really interesting.

Update 2/11/10: TechCrunch says Google has acquired Aardvark. I can see the Aardvark functionality mixing with the mobile “Nearby” tool in Google Buzz.

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