From Matt at Venturebeat. More when I can grok…
Powerset, a San Francisco search engine company, will announce Friday it has won exclusive rights to significant search engine technology it says may help propel it past Google.
The technology, developed at Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in Silicon Valley, seeks to understand the meanings between words, akin to the way humans understand language — and is thus called “natural language.” It has been thirty years in the works.
The deal is significant because practical use of linguistic technology has eluded Google. The giant search engine has said it wants to implement language-understanding technology one day. However, tests of linguistic approaches haven’t made any difference in Google’s results so far, it says (see VentureBeat’s Thursday Q&A with Google’s director of research Peter Norvig below; also see his speech last year about this at Berkeley). Google has shunned reliance on word meanings, instead focusing on finding the most popular pages that contain the keywords. As for relationships between words, Google relies on statistical relationships, such as frequency they appear together, but not on linguistic relationships.
The deal with PARC, which is owned by Xerox, is an answer to Powerset critics, such as search expert Danny Sullivan, who all but heaped scorn on Powerset’s ambitions when we first wrote about them. At the time, Sullivan didn’t know the degree to which Powerset has focused on this.