Search engines

Analysis of search technology, products, services, and vendors. Related subjects include:

May 29, 2008

Google is idiosyncratic about what it displays

I was testing the new blog theme installed on Software Memories, specifically to see whether the title and description in the search engine results reflected the metatag title and description I’d just put in, which are

History of the software industry, its companies and its personalities


History of the software industry by Curt Monash, who’s been in the middle of it since 1981


Well, the answer turns out to be a resounding “Yes and no.” Read more

May 19, 2008

How is YouTube relating videos?

One of the great music videos of all time is Madonna’s Material Girl. With two exceptions, all the “related videos” listed by YouTube are just what one would expect: either other Madonna videos, or other versions of Material Girl. One exception is Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun, while the other is Marilyn Monroe’s Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend. The connection with the Monroe video is particularly strong, with each being #3 on each other’s “Related” list.

And that’s an outstanding result. Material Girl is obviously a direct reference, conceptually and visually, to Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend. So my question is: How does YouTube know that? Are there favorite videos lists on which they co-exist? Did somebody hand-enter the connection? Is it inferred from their comment threads (which I definitely have not paged through)? Or — by far the least likely but most interesting of all — is there some sort of direct visual comparison?

Other than popularity presumably having something to do with it (both videos are, deservedly, very often watched and commented on), I haven’t figured out which it is.

May 12, 2008

Powerset is mildly interesting

Powerset has done a great job of generating buzz for it’s version of smart search. That said, its current demo is mediocre — and that’s being polite. Powerset currently indexes little more than just Wikipedia, and the quality of its search results is about comparable to that of Wikipedia’s justly reviled internal search engine. To determine this, I did searches on both sites on five strings. Wikipedia typically had more total junk ranking higher, but it also put the very best hits of all higher than Powerset did. The strings were:

Read more

March 5, 2008

Google could dominate single-site search

Google has begun to introduce a feature whereby, if your search obviously leads you to a single site (e.g., you searched on a company name), you get a second search box to search only within that site. More details at Google and Search Engine Land. Basically, this is Google Site Search made a lot easier to use.

I think this could be a really big deal. Read more

February 28, 2008

Code search options

Questions come up here from time to time about code search engines, a subject I have not researched. Well, here’s a quick link listing some leading code search engines, both Web (guess who?) and internal. Most interesting may be that the list is so short.

February 7, 2008

Survey of search UI alternatives

I’ll confess to skimming rather than reading this long, footnoted discussion of search user interfaces. But if you need to design those things — even internally at an enterprise — it’s worth at least a quick look. Ditto, perhaps, if you design other analysis- or research-oriented UIs.

February 7, 2008

Coveo highlights

I talked yesterday with enterprise search vendor Coveo. Here are some highlights.

February 5, 2008

Microsoft, Yahoo, and innovation

Bill Burnham argues that a Microsoft/Yahoo merger would drive down M&A prices. Marc Andreesen disagrees. His argument is essentially twofold:

  1. Microsoft and Yahoo were never more than a small part of the exit opportunity anyway.
  2. A merged Microsoft/Yahoo will be so slow-moving it will create more opportunities for competition than it destroys.

Andreesen certainly knows about slow-moving behemoths making wasted acquisitions; Netscape was acquired by two companies (AOL and Sun) that both dribbled away the parts they respectively acquired.* However, I think he and a lot of other observers are missing something this time — the Microsoft/Yahoo synergies are too large to ignore.

*The legalities of the merger were a lot more complicated than that, but in essence AOL got the “internet” piece of Netscape and Sun got the enterprise side.

Given the opportunity, here are some reasons I think integration would go a lot better than most people think: Read more

February 3, 2008

19 Microsoft/Yahoo synergies that could revolutionize the Internet

Many – perhaps most — commentators on Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo are thoroughly missing the point. The most interesting part of Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo isn’t the horse-race retrospective “How did they screw up so much as to need each other?” It’s not the incipient bidding war for Yahoo. And it’s certainly not the antitrust implications.

The Microsoft/Yahoo combination could revolutionize the Internet. I’m serious. The opportunities for huge synergies might just be enough to blast the merged companies out of their current uncreative, Innovator’s Dilemma funks. Search is open for radical transformation in user interface, universal search relevancy, Web/enterprise integration, and just about everything to do with advertising and monetization. Email stands to be utterly reinvented. Portals and business intelligence have only scratched the surface of their potential. And social networking is of course in its infancy.

Here’s an overview of where some synergies and opportunities for a combined Microsoft/Yahoo lie. Read more

February 1, 2008

Implications of Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo

As I write this, Microsoft has just announced an offer to acquire Yahoo. Early responses from the likes of Danny Sullivan, Henry Blodget, the Download Squad, TechCrunch, Raven SEO, Mashable, and others seem to boil down to:

I’ll try to be a bit more analytical than that, but this is still going to be quick. Assuming the deal goes through:

  1. Microsoft will recombine both parts of the old FAST/ Therefore, Microsoft will be able to use the same technology for web and enterprise search, to the extent that such commonality makes sense.
  2. I’d expect Microsoft to try to differentiate its technology via faceted/structured search. That’s a FAST strength.
  3. The old FAST search-as-BI dream might become pretty appealing to Microsoft/Yahoo.
  4. In a non-search point, Microsoft is strong in games and Yahoo is strong in fantasy sports. Look for some synergies.
  5. There sure would be a whole lot of non-Windows technology inside Microsoft. 🙂

Basically, Microsoft is a company that’s a lot more sophisticated in its thinking about user interfaces and experiences than Yahoo is. That’s where the really interesting competitive innovation would be most likely to occur.

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