Do we really know what we are looking for? And if so can we be bothered to tell a search engine exactly what we want?
Semantic search has become something that we now know about and also something that search companies are genuinely trying to do. With Hakia, Cuil and alike (by the way can anyone imagine saying I am going to “Hakia them” or “Cuil them” in the same way we say “Google them”? Thought not) we now have a new wave of semantic based search engines that are trying to go a step further than what we now know as our way of searching the web.
Back in the day when Ask were Ask Jeeves and they started doing TV commercials the concept was “ask me a question, and I will answer it”. So we all turned in Bertie Wooster and started to (try) to treat our web queries in the same way we would treat a servant. Then we realised that search engines weren’t a form of artificial intelligence, but instead a database of the web. So we learnt to direct our searches in a more database driven sort of way; “hats london”, “boil on leg”, sort of thing.
Everything at this stage started to work fine. Google then came along and cleaned everything up, applied a relevance to the things we were searching for and pushed back much of the SPAM. All was (and is) well.
I am interested in semantic search and think that pushing this forward is a good thing. However, have we already learnt how we search the web? Are we happy with it? I think broadly speaking the answer is yes, which leads us to think about where the semantic engines go with their service and concept. They really don’t have enough money to push what they do into our consciousness. How many of us have used Cuil apart from when it was launched? Also, if any of these guys get really good at it won’t Google (or Microsoft) just buy them? Maybe this or a small slice of a big pie is what the game plan is anyway?
Let’s see how it pans out…
As a footnote this is not to be confused with the ‘semantic web’. There are (and will be further) cross overs here, but they still sit quiet separately at the moment.