Delphes: A Linguistic System That Went Away

October 22, 2013

I have posted a profile of the now offline enterprise search vendor Delphes. You can access the write up at

Delphes is an illustration of what happens when academic research becomes a commercial search system. From the notion of “soul” to the mind boggling complexity of a Swiss Army knife system, Delphes draws together the threads of the late 1980s and early 1990s best ideas in search. The problem was that selling, supporting, and making the many functions work on time and budget were difficult.

How many other vendors have followed in the trail blazed by Delphes? Quite a few. Some have largely been forgotten like DR Link. Others are still with us, but subsumed into even more complex, over arching systems like Hewlett Packard’s blend of print management and Autonomy.

Reviewing a draft of my analyses of Delphes, several points struck me:

First, Delphes was one of the first search system to combine the almost mystical with the nuts and bolts of finding information in an organization.

Second, Delphes included a number of languages, but it was French language centric. Many search systems are English centric. So the approach of Delphes makes some of the linguistic issues clear.

Third, Delphes’ explanation and diagrams are quite fresh. I have seen similar diagrams in the marketing hoo-hah of many 2013 vendors.

Keep in mind that these profiles will not be updated or maintained. I am providing the information because some students may find the explanations, diagrams, and comments of interest. The information is provided on an “as is” basis. If you want to use this for commercial purposes, please, contact me at seaky2000 at yahoo dot com.

Remember. I am almost 70 years old and some of the final versions of these profiles commanded hefty fees. IDC, for example, charges $3,500 for some of the profiles I have created. Are my views worth this lofty price? In my view, that is an irrelevant question since some vendors in Massachusetts just sell the stuff, keep all the money, and leave the addled goose floating in the pond.

A reader reminded me that some big outfits have taken my work and reused it, sometimes with permission and sometimes not. Well, these are for your personal use. As for the big firms, those managers are just so darned skilled any action they take is admirable. Don’t you agree?

Enjoy the tale of Delphes.

Stephen E Arnold, October 22, 2013


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