Feeds

Microsoft searches for meaning with Powerset buy

Beats Google. Semantically speaking

High performance access to file storage

The rumors were true. Microsoft is buying Powerset, the San Francisco-based semantic search startup.

The deal was announced late this morning on the official Live Search blog. "Powerset brings with it natural language technology that nicely complements other natural language processing technologies we have in Microsoft Research," wrote Microsoft senior VP Satya Nadella.

According to Nadella, the acquisition is part of Microsoft's grand scheme to "take search to the next level by adding understanding of the intent and meaning behind the words in searches and webpages."

Based in part on patents licensed (exclusively) from the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Powerset's natural language processing technologies made their public debut in early May, when the company unveiled a semantic search engine just for Wikipedia.

With semantic search we're talking about more than just indexing keywords. A semantic search engine does its darnedest to index what those words mean. And in much the same way, it seeks to grasp the meaning behind your queries, hoping to pinpoint exactly what you're seeking.

But the Wikipedia engine - which indexes about 2.5 million pages - is just a proof of concept. Like Microsoft, Powerset wants to bring semantic search to the entire web. Thus the tie-up. Powerset has plenty of confidence in its technical talents, but it wants Microsoft's money.

"With any startup, the challenge is to take the seeds of an idea and grow it into a viable company. At Powerset, we transformed our idea into a world-class semantic search platform, demonstrating the future of search with our Wikipedia search experience," reads a post from Powerset's Mark Johnson. "But building a large-scale semantic search engine is expensive, requiring an engineering effort and computing resources beyond what most start-ups could ever imagine.

"Because our goals around improving search align so well, Powerset has decided to team up with Microsoft. We believe that this is the fastest way to bring our technology to market at a large scale."

Faster than teaming up with Google? Maybe so. Whereas Microsoft has committed wholeheartedly to the semantic search idea - Venture Beat says it paid $100m for Powerset - Google is still weighing its future options. At the moment, Page, Brin, and crew continue to trumpet the power of PageRank. At least publicly.

Is this the best way for Microsoft to challenge Google's search dominance? We shall see. But it seems a more sensible approach than bribing people to use Live Search.

Powerset will join Microsoft's existing Search Relevance team, but the 63-person startup will remain intact at its San Francisco headquarters. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
It may be ILLEGAL to run Heartbleed health checks – IT lawyer
Do the right thing, earn up to 10 years in clink
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.