According to Reuters,

Powerset on Sunday unveiled tools for searching Wikipedia that use conversational phrasing instead of keywords, marking the first step of its challenge to established Web search services such as Google.

Powerset’s technology breaks down the meaning of words and sentences into related concepts, freeing users from always needing to type the exact words they want to find.

What Google has to say about the topic?

According to PCWorld:

In an interview in October with IDG News Service, Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of Search Products & User Experience, acknowledged that the company’s search engine should — and will — overcome its keyword dependence in time.

“People should be able to ask questions and we should understand their meaning, or they should be able to talk about things at a conceptual level. We see a lot of concept-based questions — not about what words will appear on the page but more like ‘what is this about?’. A lot of people will turn to things like the semantic Web as a possible answer to that,” she said.

But she added that Google’s search engine acts smart thanks to the humongous amount of data it crunches. “With a lot of data, you ultimately see things that seem intelligent even though they’re done through brute force,” she said. As examples, she cited a query like “GM,” which the engine interprets as “General Motors” but if the query is “GM foods,” it delivers results for “genetically-modified foods.” “Because we’re processing so much data, we have a lot of context around things like acronyms. Suddenly, the search engine seems smart, like it achieved that semantic understanding, but it hasn’t really,” she said.


A search for GM goods and for GM in Powerset returns results relevant to General Motors, while Google does discriminate these searches possibly using brute force.

By contrast, a search for GM foods and for GM in both are discriminated.

PowerSet, Google, and almost all search engines do not seem to discriminate between the following two semantically different searches, which score against aforementioned semantic analysis claims:

Who is the best college junior?

Who is the best junior college?

A simple change in word order affects meaning and the information needs sought. Semantic searches? It is still a long way to go. This gonna be a nice race to watch, from the architectural side.

Talking about search engines architecture, the current issue of IRWatch – The Newsletter is the very same practice test I am giving to my grad students. Since they need to study for the finals, I thought I could kill two birds with one stone. It should reach subscribers inbox today or, at the latest, tomorrow.