A company called Powerset is talking a big talk about slapping Google around and 'propelling' themselves past G courtesy of a 'natural language' engine that they will be launching later this year.
They announce a deal with PARC to exclusively develop the thirty-years-in-the-making technology, technology which they claim Google cannot match, and technology which will knock G's simplistic statistical analysis for six.
Obviously it's a PR puff piece (link), but there are some nice quotes:
The move is significant because Google’s own technology, based on “page rank,” has been virtually replicated by other search engines like Yahoo and MSN, and so isn’t as difficult to emulate as it was a few years ago. Powerset could possibly steal a lead if it improves search results by a significant measure with natural language and simultaneously incorporates a near-equivalent to Google’s existing capabilities. Powerset has been hiring lots of Yahoo search experts and others, to help it do that.
We’d be surprised if Google doesn’t scrutinize Powerset closely, perhaps even consider an acquisition (although in our Q&A today with Norvig, below, he says Google is now working on natural language after all). Until now, though, Google’s disciplined focus on a statistical approach may have blinded it to the possibilities of a linguistic approach, Powerset’s executives say. Powerset plans to launch the search engine publicly this year.
Kaplan, who has led the “natural language” group for several years, joined Powerset as chief technology officer in July. This is a coup for Powerset, because Kaplan did not respond to some early probes from Google. In an interview, Kaplan said he didn’t believe Google took natural language seriously enough. “Deep analysis is not what they’re doing. Their orientation is toward shallow relevance, and they do it well.”
And a familiar name:
Powerset has picked off a dozen high-profile search experts from Yahoo and elsewhere. Unfortunately, it revealed their names to VentureBeat only on condition we not publish them. One name now public is Tim Converse, a Yahoo Web spam expert. Powerset now has around 40 employees.