Google searches: first 3 results or first 30 results?

In What Google Universal Search’s first 30 results know about “biotech blog” I wrote: “Everyday web users are strongly adapted to a situation in which 99% of their information comes from the first 30 results of a Google Search (the first 3 pages with divine power, if the setting is 10 results/page)”

But I was ignorant about (I am truly not a SEO expert) that in many cases, users’ tolerance is restricted to the first 3 results only, says Udi Manber, who oversees Google’s entire search-quality group in a recent New York Times article on Google Keeps Tweaking Its Search Engine: “Expectations are higher now, when search first started, if you searched for something and you found it, it was a miracle. Now, if you don’t get exactly what you want in the first three results, something is wrong.”

I guess that this search tolerance limit strongly depends on the search subject: the “first 3 results” expectation is valid in case of everyday commercial, superficial and basic data searches (who is Malcolm Gladwell?) while the first 30 results rules when the search is about something more context-dependent (why Malcolm Gladwell is an influential guy?) so the search engine faces “higher” user expectations.

(Maybe this first 3 or 30 results opposition is simply not a fruitful one as people are using special search engines, Google services concerning special topics, like scholarly literature, or blog posts. But the intention behind Google Universal Search is to handle all conceivable searches in one unified searching surface. I think it’s time to ask a search expert or consult with my wife as this question is not one that could be managed with 1 search and the first 30 results.)

Update: Anna says: instead of superficial vs. context-dependent, what I am really thinking about here is data vs. argumentation focused search.