There are several aspects to a modern search engine.
- Ability to index web pages
- Ability to search and rank web indexed page results
- Ability to display results in a meaningful way
So far most search engines have gotten a grasp at #1 and #2 but the best we have come up with for displaying results is just an ordered list. Sure lists are easy to read but this just scratches the surface about the data and information that we are searching.
Think about it, a search results for "ketchup" is displayed exactly the same as search results for "Massachusetts." Today search engines don't have context, they don't understand the meaning of the search. To a search engine everything is just a web page and every web page can be the answer to your jeopardy question.
The next generation search engine will have far more semantic comprehension of the actual search term and results. In some ways Google has started to scratch the surface here. If I search for a current movie it gives me show times and if I search for "Weather" in a particular zip code or a stock symbol I get the appropriate responses. As search engines continue to collect and digest the world's data it will become more important to customize the display, sorting and presentation of different types of searches. The world isn't broken up into web/images/video and audio as many popular search engines believe. It's broken up into people/places/events/things/commentary/opinions/fact/excerpts/etc. Currently a search engine can't separate fact from fiction. As search engines mature they will begin to aggregate data together in results tailored to match the needs of the search.
Google, Yahoo and MSN still have a long way to go.