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Is Orion Important? Ask Ask!

By - April 10, 2006

OrionSo the world buzzed today with news that Google hired the fellow behind a search technology called Orion. (That’s the guy, an Israeli-Aussie transplant PhD student named Ori Allon, to the left, as shown in the Sydney Morning Herald. Looks like he’s well on his way to …. er….. an Industry Standard rooftop!)

Besides buttressing the ongoing industry mythology that “if you write a neat algorithm you’ll be rich and famous,” which, after all, is true at least one time out of googol, the move has spurred many to speculate that Google is hedging its bets against Ask-like features, such as Zoom (click on the binoculars), just in case they take off. Ask Zoom

From the piece:

Orion finds pages where the content is about a topic strongly related to the key word. It then returns a section of the page, and lists other topics related to the key word so the user can pick the most relevant.

The results of the query are displayed immediately in the form of expanded text extracts, giving the searcher the relevant information without having to go to the website – although there is still that option.

Also of note:

Mr Stead (an Aussie university official) confirmed that the university had held talks with the big three internet search operations: Google, Yahoo! and MSN.

So, was this a bidding war that Google won? Or was it that this technology was most valuable to Google? Or both? I wonder….some at Slashdot, of course, think it was a head fake by Microsoft. I doubt it. Google probably saw a very bright search mind, and decided the needed to hire him… the algo, though that might prove valuable as well…was perhaps secondary.

Update: Of course, I screwed up. The binoculars are NOT Zoom. Zoom is a narrowing and related search technology.

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  • Vikram

    Is Google following its predecessors methodology or way of acquirin companies or people who are developing new technology?
    Any way it might be good for google who knows what is there in the orions technology it might be more robust than page rank methodology.
    If you cant innovate imitate :-)
    Cheers,
    Vikram

  • TomLee

    The decibal strength that this story is getting in the general press makes me wonder how competitvely vulnerable a company like Google is to some one-man band with a slick algo.

    And I really don’t think that’s the case.

    If it were you’d see closing market share numbers between GYM as I’m quite sure that Y&M have some great algo formulators in the back rooms of the R&D centers

    Or, is it the case? Do we see Y&M losing marketshare to G because G has algo’s that are that much more superior to Y&Ms and G (and the rest or that matter) are actually that competitively vulnerable to a game-changing algo?

    Interesting and frightening to think about from the standpoint of being a shareholder in company, particularly Google as Y&M have more diverse revenue portfolios.

  • http://www.vcvijay.blogspot.com Vijaychandran

    Whats wrong. Google is hiring 300+ employees every month I gues. If Orion is some one who writes algorithm (Searching ) makes it more interesting. They are always in hunt for talent. I am sure that irrespective of the alogorith Google will bid for the talent. Algorith is alwasys a plus ++++

  • http://strathearns.org/wds/blog Billy The Kid

    Orion and the algorithm bought by Google is very similar to Teoma, now Ask.com’s “Narrow Your Search” feature. This was also referred to as Zoom, but both are fare different than Binoculars which is just a graphical preview of the page. The terminology is sort of similar and a bit confusing, but I just thought I should point out that Binoculars are fairly useless, but Zoom or Narrowing a Search is where the real value is added in Ask search.

  • Brandon Byers

    Honestly, the way the algo is described, it sounds a lot like what G does already (clustering results around certain sub-topics found within the results). And if not G, then Ask definitely does it.

    This purchase by G is interesting, since in a recent interview Marissa Mayer claimed that the capability of Ask to cluster results around certain topics just wasn’t that interesting or useful. Was she saying that as a ruse, or did G change its mind since then? Of course, that could just be her personal opinion …

  • JG

    Brandon: I had a lot of the same bewilderment myself, because I had also recently read those comments from Marissa. And I think it is not just her. From what I’ve noticed over the years I think Google’s general philosophy that users do not want to invest any extra work in refining their query. Witness Google’s personalization efforts. Combine that with their likely fear of changing their spartan interface, lest they alter the perception of “magic” somehow, and it is easy to see why folks like us are confused by a move like this.

    Google might actually be changing. It is nice to start to see competition in this space again, opening things up for philosophical shifts.

  • Hugh J. Sloan III

    JB:

    I always enjoy your posts. You might want to check out what Radar Networks is doing around semantic tagging at the meta data level. This stuff came out of MIT and will completely change the search game. There is a very large SRI/Darpa grant behind this.

    ex cathedra,

    Hugh J. Sloan III
    General Parnter
    Sand Hill Partners LLC

  • http://www.toprankinternet.com David Saunders

    John I have just finished your book. Wonderful read and history lesson.

    I was one of the few that adopted GoTo in the early days and it was really interesting to read all about it

    Thanks you for a great book.

    David Saunders
    Charlotte NC

  • http://www.visionefx.net Rick Vidallon

    I do not believe that the implementation of ‘Orion’ will negatively impact web sites that have good ranking, quality links and great content. In fact, links and content will even become a more important issue to consider. A few basic search engine optimization rules will never change, that the consistent amount of traffic a web site receives in combination with textual content, in-bound links and out-bound links will remain the benchmark for good ranking.