Major Search Engines Pursue

By Anick Jesdanun  |  Posted 2004-03-26 Print this article Print

Local Results"> The major search engines, meanwhile, are trying to localize results, Yahoo! and America Online having an advantage over Google because they already have billing or registration information on many users. And sites like are tagging data, so customers can search not only by city but by store hours or credit cards accepted. Adding "Saturday" to a Google search might get you a store thats closed Saturday, or it might indicate Saturdays hours.
Tags also help Factiva personalize its archives of 9,000 news sources, so an engineering team gets tech-heavy results, while the marketing department gets consumer-friendly documents.
"People dont want to be spending time searching and looking for things," said Clare Hart, Factivas chief executive. "They want to be spending the time analyzing the information." At Microsoft Corp., researchers are exploring ways to return specific facts rather than entire documents. A search for "Marilyn Monroes birthday" would return an answer, "June 1, 1926," instead of sites on her famous "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" performance. "We still have this library metaphor of 'Let me give you back a bunch of books that might help you ... rather than 'Let me go through the books for you and figure out what youre looking for," said Eric Brill, a senior researcher with Microsofts AskMSR project. Mooter tries to mimic the brains organization methods by identifying underlying themes and grouping sites—a search on travel in Spain might separate hotels from warnings about terrorism. Mooter also attempts to refine results based on links a user visits. Building the technology is expensive, and some experts believe the best tools may be developed by and reserved for pay services such as Factiva and ChoicePoint Inc., which aggregates personal, financial and legal data from a variety of government and corporate sources. But dont count Google out. It has hundreds of engineers in California, New York, India and soon Switzerland working to make searching better, most recently with localized searching. Googles director of technology, Craig Silverstein, said the industry leader must keep innovating because search is bound to morph into something completely different within a decade. "It will be something that we havent even thought of yet," Silverstein said. He offered few details, but the Google Labs site offers a peek. One project, Google WebQuotes, returns listings with comments from other sites to help you evaluate a sites credibility and reputation.


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