In last month's NewsLink Spotlight, I discussed some recent developments in smart Web search tools that use the latest advances in linguistic research and information retrieval technologies, such as context analysis, concept-based searching, and natural language processing. Several of the products offer one-click linking to additional information, some without being in a browser. One company that has been working in this area is Simpli.com, Inc. (http://www.simpli.com), a privately held Internet start-up that in December 1999 introduced its SimpliFind search technology. (See our December 20, 1999 NewsBreak "Beyond Keyword Searching—Oingo and Simpli.com Introduce Meaning-Based Searching" at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=17858.) Now, the company has introduced new features and design changes that promise to improve the relevancy, efficacy, and ease of use for Web searching.
At the heart of the SimpliFind technology is its proprietary KnowledgeBase that, according to the company, "applies principles of linguistics and cognitive science to form a rich network of millions of word, concept, and subject associations." Recent improvements to the KnowledgeBase reportedly include significantly increased coverage that translates to more detailed search and results functionality.
When you enter a term to search, SimpliFind checks it against its KnowledgeBase and generates a pull-down menu with a list of concepts. SimpliFind has now significantly advanced its expanded concept queries in the background of searches to generate a related concept cluster that automatically constructs a properly calculated and weighted search query without added work for the user. For example, a search containing the keyword "java" and the concept "coffee" will also have a Boolean weighted query rich in related terminology, such as beverage, Irish crème, cappuccino, Starbucks, etc. The bottom line, according to the company, is better search results.
Users can also register and create a SimpliYours account that provides personalization features and customization capabilities. For example, SimpliFind will remember all of the concepts the user has added and store them for future use. Other new personalization features are promised for the future.
SimpliLinks is a new feature that presents targeted URLs that are directly related to a user's search concepts, in addition to the generated search results. As an example, a user searching for "Key West Florida" would be presented with the related URLs http://www.discover.key-west.fl.us and http://www.flausa.com, two sites that contain information about Key West and the surrounding areas.
Now, maybe this feature would be more impressive on a difficult conceptual search, but I found as many useful links to Key West information by just typing in a quick and dirty Find search in the address box of Internet Explorer (one result was The Official Tourism Council Web site, http://fla-keys.com). However, I haven't had a chance to properly test this or the other new search features in SimpliFind, so this isn't a criticism, just an observation. Obviously, the Internet Explorer searching does not disambiguate among multiple meanings for a term. However, Simpli.com may find that other search engines and portal sites are interested in licensing its technology.
A number of other companies are working to improve Web searching through meaning-based technology. Oingo is another company using a lexicon of word relationships (http://www.oingo.com). SurfWax uses linguistics and meaning-based searching, plus some meta-search and personalization features (http://www.surfwax.com).
Ejemoni is a start-up that hasn't yet released a product (http://www.ejemoni.com), but search engine experts are watching the company closely and there has already been media buzz about its potential. It also uses a lexicon, and information released so far indicates that the technology will search paragraphs or whole documents to provide context for a search. Some technologists have predicted it will usher in the next level of search technology.
There's certainly no shortage of companies trying to find the killer search technology. Simple keyword searching and Boolean logic may soon be obsolete. Stay tuned.