Posts Tagged ‘semantic search’

Microsoft buys Powerset. Great News for Semantic Search.

July 1, 2008

I for one was very happy to read that Powerset got acquired by Microsoft.  Rumored price was “roughly” $100M according to TechCrunch.  For those keeping score, that would be .37% of cash on hand for Microsoft, or 14 hours of revenue.  There are three important messages here:

1.  Better search matters.  MSFT wouldn’t be making this move if they didn’t think that a better search technology would help them compete against Google.

2.  Semantic search is real.  Lots of haters (including some folks at Google) like to say that semantic search won’t scale, or that you can’t build a big enough taxonomy or whatever. At Trovix, we know it works. And at Microsoft, someone with a big checkbook just voted that it works.  Semantic technologies are going to completely change the way people interact with data. Microsoft clearly wants to be at the head of that change.

3.  The time for semantic search is now.  The tech highway is littered with technologies that burned out on their own hype without ever delivering the goods.  Now, there are several companies on the cusp, or in Trovix’s case, already shipping products that provide a better user experience based on semantic technologies.  Semantic search can be demoed on applications available to consumers today. Microsoft bought Powerset because they can see a clear path to this technology being a competitive weapon.  They didn’t spend $100M to hire more researchers for the lab. 


Semantic Search and the Semantic Web

May 29, 2008

When I want to see what’s up in the search world, sometimes I google news “semantic search” to see if anything interesting has happened. 

Something that I’ve noticed is that people seem to be be confusing Semantic Search with the Semantic Web. (Example 1, Example 2)  Or maybe I’m confused.  From what I understand, the Semantic Web is a particular idea, first launched years ago, that involves metatags, RDFs, data exchange layers etc.  The idea would be to formalize the content of the internet to make it more useful, and to help people filter out what they aren’t interested in.  I’m on the sceptical side of that one.  So is Cory Doctorow. 

But Semantic Search is totally different.  Semantic search the way Trovix does it doesn’t require anything of the web page or document in order to be added to a semantic framework. We do all the heavy lifting of tagging the concepts into a tree, and building the indexes so they can be searched from a conceptual and contextual perspective.  That means you can say “show me the resume of a mid level bean counter” and we can do it, even if the accountant in question calls himself experienced. 

The problem with confusing the two is that the Semantic Web is a super long ways off if you listen to the proponents. And if you listen to the sceptics, you’d write the idea off all together.  But semantic search is already able to provide huge value in verticals. The employment space is a massive vertical market. $55 billion is spent by corporations on hiring in the US each year.  We’re not waiting for the semantic web to make search better for people. 

Microsoft Investing Big in Search, or Are They?

May 23, 2008

PC World and Ad Age both had articles about Bill Gates’ description of Microsoft and the battle for search.  No surprise that Microsoft is gunning big for Google, and I’d love to know what technologies they think are going to define the next generation of search.  (Besides the word “semantic,” of course.) 

Sadly, no such coverage. While confirming that Gates talked about “new search technologies and future ideas,” both articles swooned over the cash back business model that Microsoft came up with.  Wasn’t that a business model before the .com crash? There were (now dead) companies giving away computers, equity and cash as rewards for traffic. So, good for Microsoft for showing up with a 10 year old idea.  I’m sure it will work out fine for them.

But here’s my real question: What are they doing about search?  People talk about ad serving platforms and keyword management tools as “search,” but they aren’t.  What Microsoft is doing is a business model.  Not a search technology.  The way these articles spin it, Microsoft isn’t even competing on search technology. 

Gates is definitely on the bandwagon that the current approach will be replaced by more intelligence, and semantic approaches.  But does he think that they can out develop Google in this regard? Or is the Microsoft strategy to throw money at the problem? 



Hakia, Google Search and Why Search Can Be Better

April 24, 2008

Hakia ( won an award for it’s semantic search technology, so I thought I’d check them out. They don’t really compete with us, by the way.  They have a nice write up on some of the problems they see with Google search.  (Click Here)  I pretty much agree with them that popularity is a bad way to rank results.  Some good sources aren’t popular.  Lots of popular sources aren’t good.

But the thing they don’t say about the problem with search is that for most search tools, people start by describing what they want to see.  If you want to know about Winston Churchill and the Boer War, that’s great.  But if you want to know who’s interested in hiring you, what do you type?  

The Trovix approach to search is to use semantic search, machine learning, and matching algorithms to provide truly breakthrough search.  We take a much more complex query than the two or three words people usually type into a search box.  We can handle search queries with thousands of terms, weights on each one, and combine that with a search profile for the individual user.    And we use that to search for the best matched data. 

Better search is going to have to come from better queries. Whether those are explicit (written by the user at the time of the search) or implicit (inferred from information already known at the time of the search), something has to give. The one-size-fits-all one line search box isn’t going to work for helping people make sense of the world’s data.