Semantic Search and the Future of Search Engines

November 1, 2016

Google no longer will have one search “engine.” Google will offer mobile search and desktop search. The decision is important because it says to me, in effect, mobile is where it is at. But for how long will the Googlers support desktop search when advertisers have no choice but embrace mobile and the elegance of marketing to specific pairs of eyeballs?

Against the background of the mobile search and end of privacy shift at the GOOG, I read “The Future of Search Engines – Semantic Search.” To point out that the future of search engines is probably somewhat fluid at the moment is a bit of an understatement.

The write up profiles several less well known information retrieval systems. Those mentioned include:

  • BizNar, developed by one of the wizards behind Verity, provides search for a number of US government clients. The system has some interesting features, but I recall that I had to wait as “fast” responses were updated with slower responses.
  • DuckDuckGo, a Web search system which periodically mounts a PR campaign about how fast its user base is growing or how many queries it processes keeps going up.
  • Omnity, allegedly a next generation search system, “gives companies and institutions of all sizes the ability to instantly [sic] discover hidden patterns of interconnection within and between fields of knowledge as diverse as science, finance, law, engineering, and medicine.,” No word about the corpuses in the index, the response time, or how the system compares to gold old Dialog.
  • Siri, arguably, the least effective of the voice search systems available for Apple iPhone users.
  • Wolfram Alpha, the perennial underdog, in search and question answering.
  • Yippy, which strikes me as a system similar to that offered by Vivisimo before its sale to IBM for about $20 million in 2012. Vivisimo’s clustering was interesting, but I like the company’s method for sending a well formed query to multiple Web indexes.

The write up is less about semantic search than doing a quick online search for “semantic search” and then picking a handful of systems to describe. I know the idea of “semantic search” excites some folks, but the reality is that semantic methods have been a part of search plumbing for many years. The semantic search revolution arrived not long after the Saturday Night Fever album hit number one.

Download open source solutions like Lucene/Solr and move on, gentle reader.

Stephen E Arnold, November 1, 2016


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