Over time as more and more people start using web apps and services in the cloud, there needs to be a good way to search through all of that as and when needed and also make sense of it. Most of us refer to this domain as Personal Search, others as "the other half of web search".

Why has the adoption of this been so slow then? Why have the companies in this domain been so few and the products mostly just text based search with no in built contextual smartness or recommendation or any knowledge of what I want over time. Why do I still need to type keywords than type/speak natural phrases like "where does John live?"

The two big players (besides Google and Bing) are Greplin and CloudMagic. While Greplin has shown some really smart ideas on mobile, the overall feature set leaves a lot desired. Another smart approach is the one Ness has taken with tackling this indirectly via recommendations starting with restaurants.

I still think a lot needs to be done in this domain. Imagine Siri kind of intelligence with really contextual search and notifications. Here are a few use cases:

  • When on my way to a meeting, quickly enable to find info around the other participants or their phone numbers
  • Maybe if both parties have the app installed, allow sharing of location for a fixed time frame
  • If I saw something in my twitter feed but broadly remember the contents of the actual article, why is it so hard to get to it?
  • If I enter a restaurant and I have never been here, then recommend me what's good here (that I will like)
  • If I pinned something and near a shop that has it, suggest I buy it
  • When leaving for a meeting why can't I be reminded well in advance depending how long it would take, my preferred means of transport and existing conditions
  • My battery is about to die, why can my phone not remind me of a public charging place around
  • I tweeted something as a question, can my phone find the answer faster than my twitter network and tweet back at me or just give an in-app notification?
  • Analyze my communication and email to auto add events and reminders (better to not do it than do it wrong)
  • Somebody I have been lately chatting with on twitter a lot is around, why is it still so hard to notify people? (I seriously do not think there needs to be an app just for that)
  • What about all the information stored by my phone's sensors (how fast am I driving vs the allowed speed limit)
  • It is a friend’s birthday today, how about quickly finding about that gift she mentioned last year in Hawaii
  • If I am searching for ”cab” at 10:00 in night, why not just show me my cab companies’ number quickly? Maybe even show an in-app menu to call Über
  • Why is there still no platform to build apps using this personal data. What about a quick way to find text inside of documents and PDFs in Dropbox?
  • Speaking of platforms, can search itself be approached as a platform. As more and more of our data moves towards apps that Google cannot crawl, the more useful such a platform of search becomes. Instead of trying to search Yelp and Foursquare individually, what if these queries were distributed by a common origin point to these apps' backend and then answered returned and presented in a structured, normalized and unified way.

A lot of you would say that these are more features of a virtual personal assistant. I would say they have more to do with contextual search than an app that does what you ask of it. So instead of waiting for something like Siri to implement these, it could be a potential domain for personal search to explore.

Do you use any of the above apps? Why? Would you use something like this? What is the one feature that you would definitely need? Send in your thoughts on Twitter.