Feeds

Microsoft searches for meaning with Powerset buy

Beats Google. Semantically speaking

Reducing security risks from open source software

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. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Nadella: Apps must run on ALL WINDOWS – PCs, slabs and mobes
Phone egg, meet desktop chicken - your mother
White? Male? You work in tech? Let us guess ... Twitter? We KNEW it!
Grim diversity numbers dumped alongside Facebook earnings
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.