PlayerSearch Blog

by Ted Kasten, Founder of PlayerSearch

Interview with Powerset COO and Founder interviewed Steve Newcomb, the COO and Founder of PowerSet. PowerSet is the most talked about natural language search engine that is still in development. In the interview, Steve talks about the enormous expense of building a semantic based search engine.

“Building a semantic index is many times more expensive than building a keyword index. In fact, until recently it was financially impossible to use our same technology to build a search engine. Just a few years ago, all the computing power in the world wouldn’t have been enough to process that much information, as deeply and as fast as we need it to be processed.”

Steve goes on to discuss the breakthroughs that they have made to make this possible financially and technically. The expense is enormous and PowerSet will need to truly be a game changer in search to compete with Google. With the size of the search market, an incremental improvement in search results may be enough to justify the expense of building a semantic search engine through a sale to Google or Microsoft/Yahoo (probably in the low hundreds of millions), but I don’t see an incremental improvement being enough to dramatically change usage patterns of Google users (worth billions!).

Just added:

Powerset posted this diagram of parsing Miss South Carolina’s botched response to the question, “Recent polls have shown that a fifth of Americans can’t locate the US on a map. Why do you think this is?” They certainly used a challenging english (?!) phrase to parse! This diagram is a good example of the complexity involved with semantic search.


April 7, 2008 - Posted by | Semantic Search | , ,


  1. Just a note: that interview is from almost a year ago. But, we’re still gunning for a lot more than an incremental change in results. Powerset believes that a semantic index will give rise to all sorts of awesome user interface improvements in addition to a big bump in the quality of search results.

    Comment by Mark Johnson | April 8, 2008 | Reply

  2. Mark – Thank you for the comment! I am glad to hear that Powerset is taking on more than just the algorithm component to improve the overall search experience (I don’t think any company will out do Google based solely on a better algorithm). I took a look at Kosmix (mentioned in your blog) and I like the approach Kosmix has taken with the user interface and categorization of content. This is similar to the approach we are taking with PlayerSearch for sports news, video, stats and related content.


    Comment by playersearch | April 8, 2008 | Reply

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