PlayerSearch Blog

by Ted Kasten, Founder of PlayerSearch

Powerset Launches in Beta

Powerset, one of the most hyped “Google Killers”, has finally launched a beta version of their Natural Language Processing search engine. I am very impressed with their user interface, navigation and drill-down features but after further investigation this is far from a Google Killer. Here is a quick video overview of Powerset:

Powerset Demo Video from officialpowerset on Vimeo.

I was impressed (mainly with their UI, navigation and drill-down) after watching this video. I didn’t expect Powerset to provide great results for sports players (no search engine that I have seen does…except PlayerSearch of course!) and after testing it I was actually amazed at how poor the results were. They currently only search Wikipedia and Freebase, which is a significant limitation at the time.

One of the top sports headlines is of Sergio Garcia winning the TPC yesterday. Here is a comparison:

Google News search on Sergio Garcia: Top article covers Sergio’s win accurately. The first page of results includes 4 good articles on Sergio’s win, two recent articles discussing Sergio prior to his win, and two articles on people with the same name as Sergio Garcia (one Sergio Garcia, Jr. was robbed and shot; another Sergio Garcia scored a goal in a Madrid vs. Zaragoza soccer/futball match). No video’s.

PowerSet search on Sergio Garcia: No mention of his win or the TPC. Very poor results. These results only come from Wikipedia at the moment, so some day they may have better news, video or stats from other sources…but that day is far away (sports content is not a focus of general search engines).

PlayerSearch search on Sergio Garcia: News coverage of Sergio’s win at the TPC from sources such as Fox News, CBS Sports, the New Zealand Herald, the BBC, Taiwan News, and Sportsblogs. The best content in my opinion is the video coverage from NBC Sports (televised the event), ESPN, MSN, the Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports and others. For more information, there are web links to Wikipedia, ESPN, PGA Tour and Yahoo (one of the five web links is incorrect).

I did other searches on Powerset for Roger Clemens and Brett Favre that proved equally poor. The results for Clemens were extremely weak with no mention of the accusations of steroids use or adultery despite extensive coverage on Wikipedia (over 1,100 words dedicated to these topics; to put that in perspective, the 12 years he spent with the Boston Red Sox is covered in about 300 words). The Brett Favre results had a lot of information from Wikipedia that was interesting on first glance, but after searching around on the drill-down links wasn’t as good as my first impression. There was no sign of video or stats.

TC comments unanimously harp on Powerset. I have never seen so many comments on a TC post that are almost all negative. I think expectations were set way too high as there are some things to like about Powerset. The real goal of a beta release is to demonstrate that you can solve a problem. It was certainly a good financial decision to limit their Natural Language search to just Wikipedia articles, but according to the comments on TechCrunch it still appears that a Google search of just Wikipedia still provides more accurate and relevant results then Powerset’s natural language search does from the exact same source…that is not where you want to be after spending $20 million!

Powerset is taking on a huge huge challenge with a fraction of the resources of Google, Yahoo and MSFT. I personally hope they continue to innovate (I do like some of the improvements that they have made with the user interface, navigation and drill-down). However, they will need to raise an enormous round of financing ($100million+) to begin scaling their natural language search to the rest of the web (natural language search is more expensive to scale than keyword search as they need to capture/determine/index the relationships among words instead of just the words). More likely, they will try to sell what they have accomplished to date to a larger search engine that can provide the scale.


May 12, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. […] recently announced they are buying Powerset, a “natural language” search engine that recently released its beta product. While the beta product only searched Wikipedia, and the results weren’t any better than […]

    Pingback by Surprise, surprise…Microsoft acquires another search start-up (Powerset) « PlayerSearch Blog | July 2, 2008 | Reply

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