Jargon Watch: Box computing

I was listening to a podcast of Robin Li presenting at Stanford University when I came across the concept of box computing. Robin is the co-founder, chairman and chief executive of Chinese language search engine Baidu (pronounced Bi-Do). Robin was articulating Baidu’s future direction with a concept that he called box computing.

The search engine is the simplest interface for computing that there is, type in what you want and hopefully you can find what you need. Box computing takes this further than algorithmic search.

baidu search screen

Baidu like Google has a very spartan home page with links above providing links to various specialist search such as audio (MP3) search, image search and video search. Other search engines like Google and Yahoo! have short cuts that surfaces non-search related information like currency and measurement conversions, flight data or time in another location.

baidu translated search screen

Here is what it looks like translated into English.

Baidu takes this vision much further with the search box being the jumping off point for all kind of information including the ‘dark web’ and computational tasks in general. Baidu has opened up the search box so that other companies can provide services. For instance financial information is provided to Baidu users by a third-party.

Li and his colleagues are dreaming big, he compared the ease-of-use of a search box to both Windows and OS X platforms. I don’t think that this was accidental. It is a radical vision and Baidu would make a formidable opponent. They already have experience scaling infrastructure at a much greater rate than Google. The Chinese language web triples in size every 12 months compared to a 50  per cent increase for other languages, Baidu has been scaling their search index to match this pattern. Baidu already deals with more searches per day in China than Google handles in the US.