Given the seemingly non-stop battle between Google, Microsoft and others in Web search, you might think this is a pretty fertile area for new ideas. But a University of Washington computer science professor thinks otherwise and is calling on academia and industry to get way more creative.

Timed to coincide with this year’s 20th anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee springing the World Wide Web upon us, Oren Etzioni Thursday will have a commentary titled "Search needs a shake-up" published in the journal Nature (subscribers only). 

The main obstacle to progress "seems to be a curious lack of ambition and imagination," Etzioni writes in the piece, which he acknowledges "is meant to be provocative." 

Etzioni, who directs the University of Washington’s multidisciplinary Turing Center, calls on search engineers and others to "think outside the keyword search box."

The move to smaller search screens on smartphones makes traditional search methods such as clicking on hyperlinks more difficult when it comes to getting good answers to complex questions. He envisions more voice-based search that relies on increasingly intelligent computers like IBM’s Jeopardy-winning Watson and technologies like the Turing Center’s ReVerb software that can figure out how online information relates to each other.

"Over the next year, I think that we will see substantial progress towards intelligent search," Etzioni said in a statement. "We are seeing it today in shopping search, with Decide.com, and we are seeing it in the preliminary steps that Bing and Google are taking, but the best is yet to come."