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Future bright for online search

From CNN's Jim Boulden

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Search engines like Mercora are taking online searching to a new level.

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(CNN) -- Can you remember what life was like before the World Wide Web? Searching for information is not just an occasional pleasure, it is now a necessity.

More than a billion people already search the Web and that figure is forecast to almost double by 2010.

But several companies are working on taking search to a new level, promising users that the best is yet to come.

One such firm is UK software company Autonomy, which says its search engine Blink-X is one with a difference.

"There's still a long way to go. You type a query into an Internet search engine and you very rarely get what you want first time. You have to sit there and work through it," says company CEO Mike Lynch.

"And what about television, what about phone calls?"

Search is moving to a new level and Autonomy believes we will be able to create on-demand television channels and even log and search old telephone calls.

"(Using Blink-X) we can search about 300 TV channels and about a million hours' worth of video and TV from the web. And of course it's continually listening to TV all day long, adding more and more, understanding more and more of what's going on."

But that's only the beginning. Autonomy has already unleashed technology called "implicit query" which does much of the hard work for you.

"What I don't have to do is shut down Word, open up a browser, go to a search engine, type some queries, check some results. All I've got to do to find out what's going on is press one button," says Lynch.

Autonomy may be changing the face of video content, but across the Atlantic in Silicon Valley, music firm Mercora is revolutionizing the way we access and play music on the Web.

Picking up from where Napster left off, Mercora CEO Srivats Sampath told CNN the company was taking music back to the masses and this time it is both free and legal, and the way it is done is incredibly simple.

"What we did was we converted every single user into a little radio station and because that allowed us to do it legally, under statutory law, and pay royalties," Sampath said.

"At the same time we overlaid a search metaphor, so just like Google, when you go to Google you search for something and you find it and you view it. At Mercora, you search for an artist and you find songs and you listen to them."

Mercora has been quick to learn, keeping it simple and taking its business model from one of the biggest names on the Net.

"We've built an advertising system that lets you target Internet advertising, very similar to Google, very similar to the artist you might be listening to or the genre you might be listening to. So for example if you are listening to a song from U2 we can show you concert tickets for U2, since U2 is currently on tour," Sampath said.

Both Mercora and Autonomy are untangling the Web of consumer demand and good business practice, making search a more user-friendly concept.

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