Etymon: Maybe Another Lost Search Vendor

January 19, 2009

Etymon Systems Inc. was founded in 1998. The company set out to apply information systems research to solve problems through innovative software and consulting. The company’s name means “the source word of a given word.” In 2005, the company alerted me to its text retrieval systems: Amberfish and Isearch.

At that time, I learned that:

Amberfish was general purpose text retrieval software, developed at Etymon by Nassib Nassar and distributed as open source software under the terms of version 2 of the GNU General Public License (GPL). Its distinguishing features are indexing/search of semi-structured text (i.e. both free text and multiply nested fields), built-in support for XML documents using the Xerces library, structured queries allowing generalized field/tag paths, hierarchical result sets (XML only), automatic searching across multiple databases (allowing modular indexing), TREC format results, efficient indexing, and relatively low memory requirements during indexing (and the ability to index documents larger than available memory). Z39.50 support was available. Other features included support for Boolean queries, right truncation, phrase searching, relevance ranking, support for multiple documents per file, incremental indexing, and easy integration with other UNIX tools.

You can download from a version of Amberfish here.

Isearch was:

open source text retrieval software developed in 1994 by Nassib Nassar at the Clearinghouse for Networked Information Discovery and Retrieval (CNIDR), which was funded by the National Science Foundation. Isearch was designed as a proof-of-concept software architecture for use in distributed information retrieval, known at the time as wide-area information systems, or WAIS. Isearch formed the text retrieval component of the Isite software, which was a complete prototype implementation of ANSI/NISO Z39.50 (ISO 23950)… The main features of Isearch included full text and field searching, relevance ranking, Boolean queries, and support for many document types such as HTML, mail folders, list digests, and text with SGML-style tags.

I had a link in my notes to a version of Isearch dated 2006. You can get that file here today (January 18, 2009). Nassib Nassar turns up as one of the people involved with this company. I had a pointer in my profile of this company to a technical paper about the company’s “grid” concept. You can locate this document here. Mr. Nassar’s blog here has not been updated since December 2005. The Renaissance Computing Institute lists Mr. Nassar on its Web site here.

I am inclined to move this company to my list of defunct search and content processing vendors. If anyone has information about the fate of Etymon, let me know.

Stephen Arnold, January 19, 2009


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