Google has a potential search rival in Dorthy.com, a Web site that takes a different algorithmic approach to search. About.com co-founder Jim Anderson has been named Dorthy.com's new chief technology officer, and will use his experience in AI and natural language processing to try to refine the new site's search process.
may not be exactly shivering in its boots, but its search engine has a new
challenger in Dorthy.com, a Web site that utilizes natural language processing
and semantics to refine the search process. About.com co-founder Jim Anderson
has been named Dorthy.com's new CTO.
Dorthy.com's search engine works by having the user input not a series of
keywords, but an entirely formed question or statement such as, "I want to
upgrade my data center."
"Keyword searches do not work; asking a question and getting an answer
works," Anderson said in an
interview. "So looking at natural language processing and semantics is
what we heavily focused on. We looked at inflection and semantics, and applied
a learning algorithm."
By having the user ask a question in its entirety, as opposed to using
keywords, the site can supposedly take advantage of advances in natural
language processing, a field of computer science that Anderson
says has become considerably more robust over the last two decades.
So, in a hypothetical example, if an IT director inputs, "I want to
search for virtualization conferences in Las Vegas,"
Dorthy.com will analyze that sentence and see that, semantically, much of the
emphasis is on "virtualization conference" due to its placement in
the sentence. It will also make note of "Las Vegas,"
and because you've set up a user profile, it will know that you live on the
Your results, theoretically, would not only list upcoming virtualization
conferences in Las Vegas but also
present travel options for getting there.
Click here to read about how Lucid
Imagination and other startups have been working to create open-source search
engine technology and bring it to the enterprise.
According to the company, one of the main benefits of Dorthy.com's search
apparatus is that it makes search more efficient by reducing the number of
times a user will have to repeat different variations on keywords, or repeat
searches altogether, in order to achieve a satisfactory result.
Dorthy.com will also allow members to network into a full online community.
The site will store its users' search results, connections with other members and
other data, and use that information as feedback to better target and refine
While the site will initially be consumer-targeted, its creators insist that
its search engine model poses substantial benefits to the enterprise.
Search continues to be a hot topic for enterprise users and developers,
particularly when it comes to engines that will hunt within organizations for
information, and big players such as Google, IBM
and Microsoft have recently entered that particular arena. In January 2008, Microsoft
purchased Oslo-based Fast Search & Transfer, which specialized in
for $1.2 billion.
Dorthy.com's beta launch will happen at an unannounced date in the near
future; the site's general rollout is planned for April 1. The service will be
free, with revenue for the company coming from advertiser placement in search
The company's officers are already looking beyond purely site-based search
into the realm of mobile technology, and plan to make the service available on
handheld devices at an as-yet-undetermined point.
"Our biggest thing is looking at mobile as our future," Anderson
said. "Being tethered to a laptop isn't necessarily the best thing."
"From a technology standpoint, if you can get people to write full
questions, then the search engine has many more clues. With good NLP [natural
language processing] search, it digests information just as a person
would," Susan Feldman, an analyst at IDC,
said in an interview. "Good NLP I haven't seen on the Web because it's so
hard to scale. But it's time it was out there."
Editor's Note: This
article was updated with commentary from an analyst.