Semantic search engine startup Hakia has retooled its Web site, adding tabs for news, images and "credible" site searches as a way to differentiate between its search approach and what it calls the "10 blue links" approach search incumbents Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have used in the first era of search engines.
Hakia employs semantic search technologies, leveraging natural language processing to derive broader meaning from search queries.
The new user interface shows tabs for all results, images and news, as well as one for the company's existing Meet Others social network. This feature puts visitors in touch with others searching for the same or similar information. Users can e-mail each other through this feature.
There are also galleries of search keyword categories (to avoid the 10 blue links) and, even better, a "my Hakia" customization feature that lets users sign in to personalize their search results. Results are rendered in three columns, with the third reserved for-what else?-advertising.
But the best new feature is Hakia credible sites, which get their own space alongside regular search results, Hakia President and Chief Operating Officer Melek Pulatkonak told me Oct. 6.
Hakia began hawking "credible" Web sites, vetted by librarians and informational professionals, in April for health and medical searches drawing from sites examined by the Medical Library Association. These sites have a peer review process or strict editorial controls to ensure the accuracy of the information and zero commercial bias.
The idea is to clearly define sites users can trust in an age when do-it-yourself chronicling via Wikipedia and other sites that enable crowdsourcing activities has led to some questionable results.
I gave the credible sites a test drive today and they do work, but only for health and environmental-related queries so far. Hakia is working to expand coverage in finance, law and travel.
For example, Pulatkonak had me do a Hakia search for "What prevents a migraine?" and I got some credible sites results from the Mayo Clinic and other professional information sites.
Do the same search on Google and you'll see there are 350,000 or so results. Hakia calls these undifferentiated, meaning they have less value because, unlike with Hakia credible sites, the reader doesn't immediately know which sites to trust or ignore.
I like what Hakia is doing, but it reminds me a little of what Powerset and Wikia have done with search. It seems semantic technologies, tabs and social search are becoming table stakes for companies that want to provide a differentiation point from Google, Yahoo and the other top-line search engines.
Indeed, Ask.com relaunched Oct. 6 with its own semantic search tools. Unfortunately, whether you're Ask.com, Hakia, Cuil, Wikia or Mahalo and whatever sort of newfangled approach you bring, you're still likely cannon fodder for the Google battleship.
Differentiate all you want, but don't tell me it's because you want to best Google at the search game. Be honest and say you're differentiating yourself from Google in the hope that that company or another will begin to see you as a value add for its existing search technology and will buy you. You curse Powerset for selling out to Microsoft first.
In case you haven't heard, the search engine war is over. That goes for Yahoo and Microsoft as much as it does for Hakia, Wikia and Cuil. Prepare to be assimilated.