Wednesday, November 03, 2010

What Can Search Predict?

I have discussed the economics of internet search in detail before. Last month, Yahoo! Labs published a news item on how what people are searching for today can be predictive of what they will do in the near future. Below is an excerpt.
"This week research scientists at Yahoo! Labs published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that examines the possibility of using web search data to predict consumer behavior. Their results have captured the public imagination and the attention of more than a few media outlets, including Technology Review, ARS Technica, Reuters and the BBC. Today, study co-author Sharad Goel shares his thoughts on the team’s conclusions."
This is an interesting advancement. As has been discussed on this blog before, recent work has demonstrated that Web search volume can “predict the present,” meaning that it can be used to accurately track outcomes such as unemployment levels, auto and home sales, and disease prevalence in near real time. As the PNAS paper describes, the new research by Yahoo! Labs shows "that what consumers are searching for online can also predict their collective future behavior days or even weeks in advance".

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