Powerset is being extremely careful about showing the public how their search engine works until they are ready. After some initial hype (see our posts here, here and here), the company pretty much shut its doors to the press. I did finally get in to see a demo, and was impressed. But the meeting was off-record and we are waiting for a green light to start writing more about the demo and other background information.
For those of you unfamiliar with Powerset, it is a new, well funded search engine that aims to allow users to write their queries in natural language. In a blog post in October 2006, CEO Barney Pell wrote out some of the ideas driving the company.
A couple of days ago the company showed a sample query and result on their blog. Normally boring stuff, but a lot of people are dying to get more information on the product. We’ve copied the screen shot above.
The query is “politicians who died in office.” This is a much better query that previous examples like “books by children” v. “books for children.” Those queries can be handled fairly well by Google by simply putting quotes around the query. But for “politicians who died in office” the results on Google won’t be as good. Context is required: Google has only six results for the query in quotes, and without quotes it loses its meaning and the results aren’t useful (notice the Powerset blog is the fourth result). The Powerset results are relevant and useful.
Hand picking a query here and there and showing a screen shot of results isn’t the same as killing Google. But it does show that Powerset has the potential of being extremely useful by attacking search from a different angle. I look forward to their launch.