An insane number of searches on the web involve people asking questions. Sometimes they’re good questions, sometimes they’re stupid questions, sometimes they’re insane questions. Just start typing something into Google beginning with the words “How” or “Why” for proof of this — the auto-suggest speaks for itself. Sadly, Google isn’t great at answering questions because they’re a search engine that mainly returns hyperlinks. Sure, your answer may reside on one of those pages, but that requires another click and some browsing. A new service launching out of stealth mode tonight, Swingly, wants to perfect this task.
Of course, there are many other players in this space all of whom have tried to do the same thing or something similar. Answers.com, Ask.com, and more recently Aardvark (which Google acquired earlier this year), Facebook Answers, and Quora. Swingly says it has all of them beat because machine-drive Q+A services are too shallow while human-driven ones are too esoteric — Swingly aims to take the best of both worlds. And so far, they’ve mined the web for over 100 billion question and answer pairings to link up.
Perhaps the most refreshing thing about the Texas-based startup is that they’re not pretending to be perfect. They claim to be about 75 percent accurate right now. But just in case they can’t back that up, they show related Q&A pairing below their best match to make sure you get what you’re looking for. And that’s actually smart because apparently in their alpha testing of the product, people have proven hungry for knowledge and keep coming back for more. “Our engagement numbers are phenomenal,” the company says.
Again, Swingly’s big claim is that no other Q&A service has yet been able to operate at the scale at which they are right now. The team behind it has 10 years worth of experience building these type of semantic web systems. And we’re told that the parent company, LCC (Language Computer Corporation), has finished with 10 consecutive first place finishes in the annual TREC Question-Answering Evaluation (apparently, the ultimate nerdy Q&A systems challenge).
But really, all that matters here is how useful the service actually is in the real world. So Swingly is giving us 500 invites to dish out to TechCrunch readers. Simply use the code ‘techcrunch’ when you sign up and you’ll be granted access to the service when it’s fully live (which should be soon).
Swingly has also created a side-by-side comparison site so you can see how your questions are answered on their service versus how they are on the competitors. You can find that here (but you need to be logged in for it to work).
Need help thinking of some good questions? Here are some of the most excellent suggestions Swingly sent along:
Also be sure to check out the videos below. Yes, they’ve smartly made a Facebook trailer spoof for their launch video — and one about how to kill zombies.