The Web Search Revolution


9:30 am

Event Registration
Kaleide Theatre | RMIT Building 8/ Floor 2 | 360 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

View map

Map to Kaleide Theatre, RMIT University, 360 Swanston St Melbourne

10:00 am

Welcome and Acknowledgement of Country
Prof Mark Sanderson, ADM+S, RMIT University

10:05 am

The history of search and its impact

Sue Dumais, Technical Fellow & Managing Director, Microsoft Research New England, New York City and Montreal

Read more

What did web search replace? What are the origins of web search and how it has evolved in the last 2-3 decades? A look at the history and impact of search and a look forward to where we are going –  including neural methods which have been used in web search for a while and chat. The talk will focus more on people and their interactions with search systems, helping them articulate their needs and making sense of results and less about the technical details of the systems themselves.

Chair: Paul Thomas, Microsoft

11:00 am

Morning Tea

11:30 am

The impact of search on society

With billions of queries serviced every day, web search has profoundly reshaped the way we relate to information. But search has itself been reshaped by law, regulation, markets, user interactions, and other social forces. This panel asks: how can we understand the historical evolution of search from a social perspective? What has search done to us, and what have we done to search? And how can future search systems be designed to avoid some of the mistakes made in the past?


  • Moderator: Assoc Prof Ramon Lobato, RMIT University
  • Louisa Bartolo, Queensland University of Technology
  • Prof Dan Angus, Queensland University of Technology
  • Prof Kimberlee Weatherall, University of Sydney
  • Prof Alistair Moffat, University of Melbourne

12:30 pm


1:30 pm

The future of search: Information seeking, large language models and search

Chirag Shah, Professor of Information and Computer Science, University of Washington

Read more

The prominent model of retrieving, evaluating, and using relevant information from databases, collections, and the web is going through a significant transformation. This is largely due to wide-scale availability of various generative AI systems that can take in natural language inputs and generate highly customized natural language text or images and even videos. This transformation in progress will have profound impacts on users, developers, and policy makers. It is already changing many sectors including education, health, and commerce. In this talk, I will highlight some of the opportunities and challenges for information access stemming from recent advancements in generative AI. I will bring up frequently asked questions about impacts of these technologies on pedagogy, jobs, economy, policies, and democracy. The goal here is to cut through both hype and fear and think pragmatically about the future of information access.

Chair: Dr Dana McKay, RMIT University

2:30 pm

What did the Web Search Revolution revolt against?

How did search engines develop over the 20th century? Mark Sanderson and Julian Thomas will show how expensive subscription-based search companies formed in the 1960s and largely unchanged over three decades were wiped out by web search that was free, fast, and easy to use, drawing connections between this revolution of the past and the current generative AI revolution.


  • Moderator: Prof Lisa Given, RMIT University
  • Prof Mark Sanderson, RMIT University
  • Prof Julian Thomas, RMIT University

3:00 pm

Afternoon Tea

3:30 pm

Imagine the year is 2050… How will we experience search?

Although generative AI – and tools like ChatGPT – show that the future of search will certainly be complex, this panel will engage in longer-term stargazing to examine what the reality of search may be in 25-30 years. Through an interactive discussion format, our experts will imagine how people will find and share information, how our workplaces may change, whether dozens of phone apps will continue to define search, and who might own and control these tools and the data they contain. Come along on the journey as we look ahead to the next generation of search.


  • Moderator: Prof Lisa Given, RMIT University
  • Prof Guido Zuccon, University of Queensland
  • Peter Bailey, Canva
  • Dr Johanne Trippas, RMIT University
  • Prof Jason Potts, RMIT University

4:30 pm

6:00 –
8:00 pm

Generative AI should be stopped!

This event is ticketed separately.

Join us on Thursday 17 August for a lively debate on the implications of Generative AI and its societal impact. Featuring experts in the field, this debate will shed light on the serious hazards and enormous potential of Generative AI. The affirmative side will argue that we must stop progress in this technology and focus on minimising its harms and render it safe. The negative will emphasise the importance of integrating this Promethean Gift into every corner of our lives.

Navigate to