Have you seen Qwiki yet? If not, you MUST click on the link now. In case you’re in too much of a hurry to click, let me explain it to you. Qwiki is kind of like having Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey, armed with an encyclopedia, YouTube and Google, in your laptop, or desktop, or mobile, or well, wherever. Only, of course, a little less murderous. You tap in a search, item — say “Italian campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars,” like the screen on the left — and Qwiki prepares a short video presentation, complete with computer generated speech, in about ten or fifteen seconds. It’s a jaw-dropper.
Qwiki’s founders, Doug Imbruce and Louis Monier (founder of AltaVista) explain it as a way to “make information into an experience.” To be honest, the site is still in alpha and the experience still needs a little work. There are only about 2,000,000 available search terms, which sounds like a lot, but nowhere near the “traditional” search engines. (I’m not sure it’s technically a search engine, anyway; more of a knowledge engine.) And the generated speech can be a little sketchy, especially with foreign words. But those quibbles will no doubt fade over time. Qwiki sees a day in the near future when your mobile device will wake you up in the morning with a cheery voice, reminding you of your day’s appointments, fill you in on the weather, maybe telling you what happened on this day in history, all served by Qwiki. Type in a search term and you’ll get the whole song and dance — in song and dance.
I don’t know if Qwiki will imperil Google, Yahoo or Bing. It must have been difficult to imagine T. Rex going extinct when he ruled the earth. But you can’t help feeling the Qwiki search experience can be so much more satisfying than what we’re served right now. If Qwiki doesn’t replace search as we know it, it will certainly affect it. And that, of course, means yet another evolution in advertising models. Could they become as involving as Qwiki, itself? We’ll see.