On Monday, Powerset launched the beta version of their own search engine. While this is not interesting in and of itself, they have attracted a great deal of attention by using a unique algorithm to generate more relevant results. Using ‘natural language search,’ their system actively interprets the meaning of words rather than simply matching them or analyzing how frequently they are mentioned in a document. In the blogosphere world, this form of artificial intelligence has propelled them into direct competition with our favorite search engines. In addition, it has sparked rumors Microsoft may be interested in buying them out. I have to give them some credit, they were considered competition to and acquisition material for the most advanced search engines on the planet, all pre-beta release.
What makes this system so interesting is the engine’s ability to interpret the meaning of words, and actually deliver on that promise. Rather than simply indexing all the material contained in a document, the engine literally reads and assigns meaning to every single word in every single document. Talk about heavy processing capacity. By analyzing the literal meaning of a word, and then analyzing the linguistic meaning of a word and finding synonyms, the engine can find what they claim to be more relevant results than the ‘exact match’ system used on our favorite engines. I would normally smash any engine trying to compete with Google, but how can you blame anyone for trying to deliver more relevant results to the end user. The only problem with their system now is they have only indexed pages from Wikipedia and Freebase, another open database. So, as with all online content, the question becomes whether they can transform their system into a source of revenue. Given Wikipedia has failed to do this, I am curios to see what happens down the line.
And since you are all curious, click the Powerset link above and try asking the engine a question yourself. You may be surprised by the results it delivers.