March 15, 2017
Apparently ahead of a rumored IPO launch, Russian search firm Yandex is introducing “Spectrum,” a semantic search feature. We learn of the development from “Russian Search Engine Yandex Gets a Semantic Injection” at the Association of Internet Research Specialists’ Articles Share pages. Writer Wushe Zhiyang observes that, though Yandex claims Spectrum can read users’ minds, the tech appears to be a mix of semantic technology and machine learning. He specifies:
The system analyses users’ searches and identifies objects like personal names, films or cars. Each object is then classified into one or more categories, e.g. ‘film’, ‘car’, ‘medicine’. For each category there is a range of search intents. [For example] the ‘product’ category will have search intents such as buy something or read customer reviews. So we have a degree of natural language processing, taxonomy, all tied into ‘intent’, which sounds like a very good recipe for highly efficient advertising.
But what if a search query has many potential meanings? Yandex says that Spectrum is able to choose the category and the range of potential user intents for each query to match a user’s expectations as close as possible. It does this by looking at historic search patterns. If the majority of users searching for ‘gone with the wind’ expect to find a film, the majority of search results will be about the film, not the book.
As users’ interests and intents tend to change, the system performs query analysis several times a week’, says Yandex. This amounts to Spectrum analysing about five billion search queries.”
Yandex has been busy. The site recently partnered with VKontakte, Russia’s largest social network, and plans to surface public-facing parts of VKontakte user profiles, in real time, in Yandex searches. If the rumors of a plan to go public are true, will these added features help make Yandex’s IPO a success?
Cynthia Murrell, March 15, 2017
March 7, 2017
One of the happiest moments in a dog’s life is when, after having spent countless hours spinning in circles, is when they catch their tail. They wag for joy, even though they are chomping on their own happiness. When search engines were finally programmed to handle long-tailed queries, that is queries with a lot of words such as a question, people’s happiness was akin to a dog catching their tail. Google released RankBrain to handle long-winded ad NLP queries, but Yandex just released their own algorithm to handle questions, “Yandex Launches New Algorithm Named Palekh To Improve Search Results For Long-Tail Queries” from AIRS Association.
Yandex is Russia’s most-used search engine and in order to improve the user experience, they released Palekh to better process long-tail queries. Palekh, like RankBrain, will bring the search engine closer to understanding the natural language or the common vernacular. Yandex decided on the name Palekh, because the Russian city of the same name has a firebird on its coat of arms. The firebird has a long-tail, so the name fits perfectly.
Yandex handles more than 100 million queries per day that fall under the long-tail query umbrella. When asked if Yandex based Palekh on RankBrain, Yandex only responded that the two algorithms are similar in their purposes. Yandex also uses machine learning to build neural networks to build a smarter search engine:
Yandex’s Palekh algorithm has started to use neural networks as one of 1,500 factors of ranking. A Yandex spokesperson told us they have “managed to teach our neural networks to see the connections between a query and a document even if they don’t contain common words.” They did this by “converting the words from billions of search queries into numbers (with groups of 300 each) and putting them in 300-dimensional space — now every document has its own vector in that space,” they told us. “If the numbers of a query and numbers of a document are near each other in that space, then the result is relevant,” they added.”
Yandex is one of Google’s biggest rivals and it does not come as a surprise that they are experimenting with algorithms that will expand machine learning and NLP.
Whitney Grace, March 7, 2017
March 3, 2017
Hackers tend to the flock to the Internet’s underbelly, the Dark Web, and it remains inaccessible unless you have a Tor browser. According to the AIRS Association, hacker search engines are a lot easier to access than you think, read about it in “5 Hacker-Friendly Search Engines You Must Use.” The best-known hacker-friendly search engine is Shodan, which can search for Internet connected devices. While Shodan can search computers, smartphones, and tablets the results also include traffic lights, license plate readers, and anything with an Internet connection. The biggest problem, however, is that most of these devices do not have any security:
The main reason that Shodan is considered hacker-friendly is because of the amount and type of information it reveals (like banner information, connection types, etc.). While it is possible to find similar information on a search engine like Google, you would have to know the right search terms to use, and they aren’t all laid out for you.
Other than Shodan some of the other scary search engines are ZoomEye, I2P, PunkSPIDER, and Censys. These search engines range in the amount of data they share as well as their intended purpose, but they all reveal Internet connected devices. Beginners can use these search engines, but it takes a little more than technical know how to get results displayed. One needs to figure out how to use them before you even enter the first search result, because basic keyword will not get you far.
Hacker search engines are a good tool to use to find security breaches in your personal network or Web site. What will prevent most people from using them is the lack of experience, but with only a small amount of learning these search engines in the wrong hands are dangerous.
Whitney Grace, March 3, 2017
March 2, 2017
One of Google’s biggest rivals is Yandex, at least in Russia. Yandex is a Russian owned and operated search engine and is more popular in Russia than the Google, depending on the statistics. It goes to say that a search engine built and designed by native speakers does have a significant advantage over foreign competition, and it looks like France wants a chance to beat Google. Search Engine Journal reports that, “Qwant, A French Search Engine, Thinks It Can Take On Google-Here’s Why.”
Qwant was only founded in 2013 and it has grown to serve twenty-one million monthly users in thirty countries. The French search engine has seen a 70% growth each year and it will see more with its recent integration with Firefox and a soon-to-be launched mobile app. Qwant is very similar to DuckDuckGo in that it does not collect user data. It also boasts mote search categories than news, images, and video and these include, music, social media, cars, health, music, and others. Qwant had an interesting philosophy:
The company also has a unique philosophy that artificial intelligence and digital assistants can be educated without having to collect data on users. That’s a completely different philosophy than what is shared by Google, which collects every bit of information it can about users to fuel things like Google Home and Google Allo.
Qwant still wants to make a profit with pay-per-click and future partnerships with eBay and TripAdvisor, but they will do without compromising a user’s privacy. Qwant has a unique approach to search and building AI assistants, but it has a long way to go before it reaches Google heights.
They need to engage more users not only on laptops and computers but also mobile devices. They also need to form more partnerships with other browsers.
Bon chance, Qwant! But could you share how you plan to make AI assistants without user data?
Whitney Grace, March 2, 2017
March 1, 2017
Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have dedicated a portion of their fortune to philanthropy issues through their own organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Tech Crunch shares that one of their first acquisitions is to support scientific research, “Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Acquires And Will Free Up Science Search Engine Meta.”
Meta is a search engine dedicated to science research papers and it is powered by artificial intelligence. Chan and Zuckerberg plan to make Meta free in a few months, but only after they have enhanced it. Once released, Meta will help scientists find the latest papers in their study fields, which is awesome as these papers are usually blocked behind paywalls. What is even better is that Meta will also assist funding organizations with research and areas with potential for investment/impact. What makes Meta different from other search engines or databases is quite fantastic:
What’s special about Meta is that its AI recognizes authors and citations between papers so it can surface the most important research instead of just what has the best SEO. It also provides free full-text access to 18,000 journals and literature sources.
Meta co-founder and CEO Sam Molyneux writes that “Going forward, our intent is not to profit from Meta’s data and capabilities; instead we aim to ensure they get to those who need them most, across sectors and as quickly as possible, for the benefit of the world.
CZI invested $3 billion dedicated to curing all diseases and they already built the Biohub in San Francisco for medical research. Meta works like this:
Meta, formerly known as Sciencescape, indexes entire repositories of papers like PubMed and crawls the web, identifying and building profiles for the authors while analyzing who cites or links to what. It’s effectively Google PageRank for science, making it simple to discover relevant papers and prioritize which to read. It even adapts to provide feeds of updates on newly published research related to your previous searches.
Meta is an ideal search engine, because it crawls the entire Web (supposedly) and returns verified information, not to mention potential research partnerships and breakthroughs. This is the type of database researchers have dreamed of for years. Would CZI be willing to fund something similar for fields other than science? Will they run into trouble with other organizations less interested in philanthropy?
Whitney Grace, March 1, 2017
February 28, 2017
We thought Google was left-leaning, but an article at the Guardian, “How Google’s Search Algorithm Spreads False Information with a Rightwing Bias,” seems to contradict that assessment. The article cites recent research by the Observer, which found neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic views prominently featured in Google search results. The Guardian followed up with its own research and documented more examples of right-leaning misinformation, like climate-change denials, anti-LGBT tirades, and Sandy Hook conspiracy theories. Reporters Olivia Solon and Sam Levin tell us:
The Guardian’s latest findings further suggest that Google’s searches are contributing to the problem. In the past, when a journalist or academic exposes one of these algorithmic hiccups, humans at Google quietly make manual adjustments in a process that’s neither transparent nor accountable.
At the same time, politically motivated third parties including the ‘alt-right’, a far-right movement in the US, use a variety of techniques to trick the algorithm and push propaganda and misinformation higher up Google’s search rankings.
These insidious manipulations – both by Google and by third parties trying to game the system – impact how users of the search engine perceive the world, even influencing the way they vote. This has led some researchers to study Google’s role in the presidential election in the same way that they have scrutinized Facebook.
Robert Epstein from the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology has spent four years trying to reverse engineer Google’s search algorithms. He believes, based on systematic research, that Google has the power to rig elections through something he calls the search engine manipulation effect (SEME).
Epstein conducted five experiments in two countries to find that biased rankings in search results can shift the opinions of undecided voters. If Google tweaks its algorithm to show more positive search results for a candidate, the searcher may form a more positive opinion of that candidate.
This does add a whole new, insidious dimension to propaganda. Did Orwell foresee algorithms? Further complicating the matter is the element of filter bubbles, through which many consume only information from homogenous sources, allowing no room for contrary facts. The article delves into how propagandists are gaming the system and describes Google’s response, so interested readers may wish to navigate there for more information.
One particular point gives me chills– Epstein states that research shows the vast majority of readers are not aware that bias exists within search rankings; they have no idea they are being manipulated. Perhaps those of us with some understanding of search algorithms can spread that insight to the rest of the multitude. It seems such education is sorely needed.
Cynthia Murrell, February 28, 2017
February 24, 2017
Bad news, Google. The article titled Smartphone Apps Now Account for Half the Time Americans Spend Online on TechCrunch reveals that mobile applications are still on the rise. Throw in tablet apps and the total almost hits 60%. Google is already working to maintain relevancy with its In Apps feature for Androids, which searches inside apps themselves. The article explains,
This shift towards apps is exactly why Google has been working to integrate the “web of apps” into its search engine, and to make surfacing the information hidden in apps something its Google Search app is capable of handling. Our app usage has grown not only because of the ubiquity of smartphones, but also other factors – like faster speeds provided by 4G LTE networks, and smartphones with larger screens that make sitting at a desktop less of a necessity.
What apps are taking up the most of our time? Just the ones you would expect, such as Facebook, Messenger, YouTube, and Google Maps. But Pokemon Go is the little app that could, edging out Snapchat and Pinterest in the ranking of the top 15 mobile apps. According to a report from Senor Tower, Pokemon Go has gone beyond 180 million daily downloads. The growth of consumer time spent on apps is expected to keep growing, but comScore reassuringly states that desktops will also remain a key part of consumer’s lives for many years to come.
Chelsea Kerwin, February 24, 2017
February 22, 2017
Oh, the wonders of modern technology. Now, TechCrunch informs us, “This Amazing Search Engine Automatically Face Swaps You Into Your Image Results.” Searching may never be the same. Writer Devin Coldewey introduces us to Dreambit, a search engine that automatically swaps your face into select image-search results. The write-up includes some screenshots, and the results can be a bit surreal.
The system analyzes the picture of your face and determines how to intelligently crop it to leave nothing but your face. It then searches for images matching your search term — curly hair, for example — and looks for ‘doppelganger sets, images where the subject’s face is in a similar position to your own.
A similar process is done on the target images to mask out the faces and intelligently put your own in their place — and voila! You with curly hair, again and again and again. […]
It’s not limited to hairstyles, either: put yourself in a movie, a location, a painting — as long as there’s a similarly positioned face to swap yours with, the software can do it. A few facial features, like beards, make the edges of the face difficult to find, however, so you may not be able to swap with Rasputin or Gandalf.
Behind the nifty technology is the University of Washington’s Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman, a researcher in computer vision, facial recognition, and augmented reality. Her work could have more sober applications, too, like automated age-progressions to help with missing-person cases. Though the software is still in beta, it is easy to foresee a wide array of uses ahead. Now, more than ever, don’t believe everything you see.
Cynthia Murrell, February 22, 2017
February 17, 2017
Online marketers are usually concerned with the latest Google algorithm, but Microsoft’s Bing is also a viable SEO target. Busines2Community shares recent upgrades to that Internet search engine in its write-up, “2016 New Bing Features.” The section on the mobile app seems to be the most relevant to those interested in Search developments. Writer Asaf Hartuv tells us:
For search, product and local results were improved significantly. Now when you search using the Bing app on an iPhone, you will get more local results with more information featured right on the page. You won’t have to click around to get what you want.
Similarly, when you search for a product you want to buy, you will get more options from more stores, such as eBay and Best Buy. You won’t have to go to as many websites to do the comparison shopping that is so important to making your purchase decision.
While these updates were made to the app, the image and video search results were also improved. You get far more options in a more user-friendly layout when you search for these visuals.
The Bing app also includes practical updates that go beyond search. For example, you can choose to follow a movie and get notified when it becomes available for streaming. Or you can find local bus routes or schedules based on the information you select on a map.
Hartuv also discusses upgrades to Bing Ads (a bargain compared to Google Ads, apparently), and the fact that Bing is now powering AOL’s search results (after being dropped by Yahoo). He also notes that, while not a new feature, Bing Trends is always presenting newly assembled, specialized content to enhance users’ understanding of current events. Hartuv concludes by prompting SEO pros to remember the value of Bing.
Cynthia Murrell, February 17, 2017
February 2, 2017
Want to be an expert searcher? Gizbot shares some tips, complete with screenshots, in their brief write-up, “Here are 5 Tricks To Get Better Google Search Results.” Writer Sneha Saha begins:
To get any information about anything is easy. Just type the keywords on the Google Search engine and you are done. Rather you might just get information that is far more than what you would actually need. However, getting more information than you require is also a little annoying. Searching for the accurate information among the numerous links that Google provides you with is surely a tough task. We at GizBot have come up with a list of effective methods to try out to search the most accurate information on Google in just a few clicks.
Here are the five tricks: Search for synonyms using a tilde symbol; Use an asterisk in place of any word you cannot remember; Include “or” when confused between two options; Use “intitle” to find keywords within a title or “inurl” to find keywords within a URL; Narrow results by including a date range in your query. See the post for details on any of these search tips.
Cynthia Murrell, February 2, 2017