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Powerset is a San Francisco based startup which is generating a fair amount of buzz around its product - a natural language search engine which aims to 'break the confines of keyword search'.


Natural language search isn't simply about answering questions, it aims to match the linguistic structure of the query. In the example above, Powerset returns results that contain sentences directly referring to politicians dying in office. It doesn't just give websites that contain the key words.

Note that Powerset can work out that 'governors' also refers to politicians - this is an example of Powerset using relationships between words to return results.

According to Powerset:

"Our unique innovations in search are rooted in breakthrough technologies that take advantage of the structure and nuances of natural language."

Powerset has only released one or two example queries so far, though it has just launched Powerlabs, a service which will allow users to see new product demos and ideas, and give feedback.

The company raised $12.5m in a Series A round of funding back in November 2006. It is also making use of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud service, launched by Jeff Bezos last year.

This allows Powerset to create the scale of search infrastructure required, without paying the upfront costs, enabling the startup to compete effectively.

Powerset hasn’t launched yet, though you can register for it via email on the Powerset home page.

Graham Charlton

Published 15 June, 2007 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (1)


Carl Spencer, Director at Yorganic Search Marketing

It would be really good to see another search engine make an impact upon the market. But, one has to question the ability to get the average user to adopt it.

Let's face it, if you are not quite sure what you are searching for and using a search engine for something more advanced than the equivalent of a yellow pages search then Yahoo already does a far better job that Google. But even Yahoo are struggling to keep up with Google when it comes to market reach.

Somehow I feel that these guys will really only penetrate the market when they get bought out by Microsoft.

over 9 years ago

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