Friday, January 06, 2006

When will search engines change?

The other day I had a telephone call with a former colleague from the time that we were selling electronic publishing solutions (Interleaf and CD-ROMs) in the second half of the eighties. We got talking about search engines as he had been selling BASIS systems from Batelle/Information Dimensions for CAP Gemini. Of course the name Google was mentioned. He thinks it is a disaster. That is what I also think. The information noise you get with that search engine. Just try the German craze Blondinewitz, jokes about blondines. Google has 134.000 references at the moment of writing, not counting the 471 misspellings (Blondinewitz). Where is de de-duplicator facility?

Search engines were developed for the first time in the sixties in order to access text databases with summaries of scientific articles. Commercial computer host organisations such as Mead Data Central (now LexisNexis), SDC and Dialog had their own software. You needed a course in order to be able to search and avoid information noise. But those search engines could be rather precise as you could search with Boolean operators such as AND, OR and NOT and had special tools such as proximity and adjacent search. Other search engines were STAIRS of IBM and BASIS from Batelle. These search engines differed amongst each other in handling the amount of files, the speed and the search facilities.

Yesterday I read that the Norway company FAST Search & Transfer ASA producing the search engine FAST, is up for sale. FAST was developed in the early eighties and was famous for its speed and its flexibility in applications. And it looks like people are discovering that. But with enthusiasm comes also the financial ratrace; for the time being FAST has bought its parent company Opticom. This wstory will be continued.

In connection with search engines I read also about a new concept: ambient findability. We can find anyone or anything from anywhere at anytime. At the heart of this brave new world is a library, or rather a multitude of libraries, that help us find what we need, whether the objects sought (and the libraries themselves) are physical, digital, or in between.

It would not surprise me when in 2006 we see some competitors of the Google search engine will come on the market.


Talking about search engines. Today the announcement of the 11th Search Engine Meeting in Boston Ma. arrived in the letterbox, together with an anouncement of Stephen Arnold's PDF book The Google Legacy, including a free chapter on Google Technology. Infonortics' boss Harry Collier is still going strong I reckon.

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