Launch of a new semantic search engine
The San Francisco startup Powerset went live on Monday (12th May 2008) with its new semantic search engine for the Internet. The launch of the service has been anticipated for months, with US media speculating about the chances for success of the service, referred to both as the "Google killer" and a takeover target for Microsoft.
The search engine is designed to understand natural language input, although single search terms can also be used. The now publicly accessible service is still in the beta phase. For many questions it actually does deliver a clear answer, as well as an additional summary of information pertaining to the question and a list of the most important sources on the internet.
Unlike Google or Yahoo, Powerset doesn't index the entire web. Instead, it currently only searches Wikipedia files and the Freebase open database. Once the search machine proves stable, other sources will gradually be added.
The service analyses the entry word for word, instead of just filtering out key terms like conventional search machines do. The extent of a Powerset search in cyberspace is therefore significantly smaller, but it also takes much longer to analyze an individual page. According to Barney Pell, one of the founders of Powerset, an individual processor may need several seconds for a single page.
Several of Powerset's founders are former employees of NASA and Xerox PARC and the search algorithms used in Powerset are derived from NASA research, as well as research by Xerox PARC and SRI International institutes. The company has existed since 2005 and is funded by several venture capital firms, including Foundation Capital and Founders Fund.