What's next in search?
A company called BigThink is bringing together search rivals, academics, analysts and investors at a forum in San Francisco next week that aims to answer that question.
Although Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Bing is sponsoring the event, BigThink cofounder and CEO Victoria Brown said the software giant didn't influence the agenda.
"We are a website with no political agenda that focuses on big ideas and sharing that information with the public," Brown told Internetnews.com. "Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has agreed to participate because this event is about figuring out what's important in search."
A spokesperson for Microsoft said the company is sponsoring the event because "we're really just interested in generating a conversation througout the industry, with Google, Blekko and other search firms on the upcoming trends, any problems that are arising and the increasing use of artificial intelligence to get the right search results."
Brown said BigThink got Microsoft's sponsorship before approaching Google about speaking.
The Farsight 2011: Beyond the Search Box event will be offered as a free webcast from San Francisco on Wednesday, February 1, from 10 to 2 p.m. Pacific Time.
The news comes at a time when Google continues to dominate the market for search, but faces renewed competition from rivals Microsoft and Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) which now share search infrastructure and ad revenue. Last month comScore (NASDAQ: SCOR) rankings showed Google with a 66 percent share of the U.S. search market, followed by Yahoo and Microsoft with 16 and 12 percent respectively.
The agenda for Farsight 2011 includes a panel discussion with Microsoft's Harry Shum, who heads the company's core search development; Google SEO chief Amit Singhal and Rich Skrenta, co-founder of a new search engine called Blekko that leverages slashtags to target search results and minimize spam.
Matt Cutts, who heads Googles Webspam team, is also scheduled to speak along with hedge fund manager and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel who was an earlier investor in Powerset which Microsoft bought and developed into Bing.
Another panel, is provocatively titled: "Web 4.0: When the Machines Take Over. When will A.I.and Machine Learning reach social utility?"
Panelists include comptuer scientist Jaron Lanier, who coined the term virtual reality, and Luc Barthelet, executive director of search company, Wolfram|Alpha, which bills itself as a "computational knowledge engine."