Search firms upgrade relevance, bells, whistles

ASK FAST

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Fast Search & Transfer ASA and Ask Jeeves Inc both yesterday introduced upgrades to their web search engines, hoping to attract and retain more users as search becomes an increasingly lucrative web business.

Jeeves said it has launched version 2.0 of the Teoma search engine it acquired late 2001 and went live with a year ago. Teoma provides the follow-through web search results for ask.com, and has a standalone demo site at teoma.com.

Teoma general manager Paul Gardi said: "We've increased the size of the index, which opens up more communities to examine, and gives us more pages in each community." Communities are heavily interlinked subject-specific web sites that Teoma is virtually unique in identifying and using to determine relevance.

The Teoma index currently stands at 500 million full-text pages, reduced from the one billion the system crawls. Gardi said the index will increase again in the first half, with an optimal size probably of about 750 million pages indexed of two billion crawled.

The company has also added some advanced features, such as domain filters, phrase search, search-within-results, and new languages. Most of these are already available on rival sites such as Google or AlltheWeb.

Separately yesterday, Peter Bauert, general manager of FAST's AlltheWeb, said the company is addressing both casual and hard-core searchers with a few upgrades it went live with yesterday.

First, the company has automated the language selection option, so that international users search in English and their native language or languages by default. The system automatically determines where the user is located.

Second, AlltheWeb now allows users to search using free-form Boolean logic. Previously, users could construct limited Boolean queries using drop-down menus. Now, experienced searchers can further refine their queries using more complex logic.

Finally, Fast has made two additional ways to search available. Users can drag an AlltheWeb search button into their browser toolbar that, when clicked on, performs a web search on whatever words or terms are currently highlighted in the page.

Bauert said the company is working on an AlltheWeb toolbar, much like the ones offered by Google Inc and Yahoo! Inc. In the meantime, a smaller browser plug-in is now available that allows users to search directly from the address bar by typing "atw" before their query.

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