November 4, 2005

Autonomy + Verity — so what?

On some levels, the Autonomy/Verity merger makes total sense. The text search industry now has an unquestionably dominant vendor of shelfware. Somewhat less snarkily, I could say that it has a dominant OEM vendor of search technology. And while Verity’s management team has never recovered from the dizzying cycles of turnover in the 1990s, Autonomy’s obviously was quite effective. However, I see no obvious reason to believe that combined company will actually ship good products, or ones that lead to fundamentally greater adoption for enterprise search than the fairly marginal role it plays today.

Verity and Autonomy represent different philosophies of text search — Boolean vs. concept-based, basically. Neither works very well on its own, whether in the enterprise or on the web, with concept-based being the weaker of the two. That’s why Altavista et al. failed, and Excite failed yet more completely. It’s why Verity’s text search is generally more respected, and has more hardcore users, than Autonomy’s. (Being a vastly older company than Autonomy helps a lot too, of course.)

I hope that the merged company will soon introduce some new and/or synthesized approaches to search, significantly improving the overall quality of available products. If anybody has the resources and motivation, it will. The recent boom in text data mining, and the general increase of seriousness about ontologies, at least raises the possibility that concept-oriented search will evolve into something significantly useful. But I’m not holding my breath.


4 Responses to “Autonomy + Verity — so what?”

  1. Mark Wong-VanHaren on January 14th, 2006 5:05 am

    Could you elaborate as to why you feel Excite’s search failed? Thanks.

  2. The Monash Report»Blog Archive » Autonomy/Verity merger on July 23rd, 2006 12:51 am

    […] As posted in the Text Technologies blog, I’m skeptical yet slightly hopeful about the combined Autonomy/Verity company. Each of those companies sells overall technology that’s less than the sum of its parts. Maybe the merged company will be big enough to wake up, add what’s missing, and grow the enterprise text search market beyond its current level of: […]

  3. Text Technologies»Blog Archive » Update: Autonomy/Verity merger on August 2nd, 2006 10:21 pm

    […] I had a couple of very interesting calls with Autonomy last week. One message I got was that they do not want to be pigeonholed in search, which they think on the whole is a primitive way of dealing with unstructured information. Nonetheless, my first post based on those calls will indeed focus on text indexing and search. You see, I wrote quite skeptically about the Autonomy/Verity merger when it was announced, and I’d like to amend that with an updated opinion. Autonomy’s claims can be summarized in part by the following: […]

  4. Text Technologies»Blog Archive » The text technologies market 2: It’s actually in disarray on January 31st, 2007 1:35 pm

    […] The text technologies market should be huge and thriving. Actually, however, it’s in disarray. Multiple generations of enterprise search vendors have floundered, with the Autonomy/Verity merger being basically a combination of the weak. The RDBMS vendors came up with decent hybrid tabular/text offerings, and almost nobody cared. (Admittedly, part of the reason for that is that the best offering was Oracle’s, and Oracle almost always screws up its ancillary businesses. Email searchability has been ridiculously bad since — well, since the invention of email. And speech technology has floundered for decades, with most of the survivors now rolled into the new version of Nuance. […]

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