May 13, 2008
SY Tan

Make Searches with Natural Language on Powerset Search Engine

The recently launched search engine, Powerset, has set a new milestone in search engine history. This new search engine offers users a new and more efficient way to search for information. Unlike the conventional method which requires users to key in precise keywords to get the best results, Powerset adopts a so-called “natural-language” search technology to help users find the answers they are looking for.

The search ability of Powerset is currently limited to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia and the open database Freebase only. It is in its beta test version at this point of time. By using Powerset, users can type in natural language, for instance phases like “who is Jon Stewart” or “actors in Pulp Fiction” in the search box. Powerset will thence analyze the actual meaning of words and phases that it has indexed in the web. Meanwhile it also analyzes the linguistic meaning of the query and get the best results that match the two analyses. Theoretically, the search methodology will produce more relevant, meaningful and precise results that match users’ purposes.

The emergence of the Powerset format will perhaps be useful for non-tech-savvy users or internet newbies. It makes the search process much easier and gets the most relevant results within a shorter time. It avoids a lot of unnecessary or irrelevant searching. In the search result page, Powerset has also added some useful info for users:

Factz – When users enter a topic query, Powerset assembles a compact summary of interesting, and sometimes surprising Factz, extracted from pages across Wikipedia.

Dossiers – Powerset creates a summary of information found in Freebase and Wikipedia to give you a quick overview about a topic.

Answers – For many questions, Powerset automatically assembles an answer list from sentences in Wikipedia™ or data in Freebase.

Semantic Highlighting – The most relevant search results are highlighted based on the meaning of users’ question.

Minibrowser – A result can be expanded to show the snippet in the context of the full Wikipedia article.

Powerset currently supports Firefox 2, Safari 3 and IE7 and above. It is not advisable to try with Safari 2, Opera and IE6 as some functions cannot work.

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