Microsoft search researcher Eric Brill suggests that as search gets better, it will be less a money-maker: Microsoft Researcher Questions Search Engine Business Model from CRN, a nice catch from Search Engine Guide. Brill's comments were made yesterday at a conference at MIT. Brill's been involved in developing an answer engine for Microsoft, as Gary's blogged before: Microsoft Research Gets Serious About Search.
I'd love to have known more of the discussion. I'm guessing the idea is that if you give people the perfect answer naturally in the "free" results, they won't need to click on any of the ads.
Perhaps. But I also suspect we'll see that for very popular, very generic searches (think cars, movies, dvd players and so on), the "free" stuff simply won't be shown until well after ads. And as long as those ads are fairly relevant, it probably won't send most users fleeing from search engines.