The prediction that search engines will get smarter has been made by a number of people. And surprise, surprise it is one that seems to be made every year. Guess it is the easiest one to make.
In 2001, getting a search engine to think like a human was a method touted to make it smarter.
In 2002, natural language improvements seemed to be the way to make search engines smarter.
In 2003, LookSmart thought the answer was to look smarter. Funny, this was also the year Mooter Search was launched in Australia and was heralded as a humanized msart engine - wonder whatever happened to them.
2004 saw the launch of Accoona that was hailed as a smarter engine using synonyms and not exact word matches in its searches. This method is now used by virtually all engines.
In 2005, smarter search was supposed to come from niched engines such as travel search engines. Though Ask - still known as AskJeeves - saw the future in Web Answers as a supplement to their Smart Search.
2006 saw the launch of ChaCha - the human-powered search engine. It was also the year Google started its customized search - another answer to smarter search. Former SEWer Chris Sherman was even quoted by the Times Online saying it would find the needle and not the haystack.
Last year the integration of mobile phones and localized results was seen as the smart move for the future though at least one that would take 5 years to be fully functional.
So as you read the predictions over the next few weeks keep this in mind. Search engines will always be getting smarter, but sometimes the methods suggested do not bear the fruit.