May 102008

There is an article on CNET that speculates that Microsoft may be interested in acquiring Powerset, which is close to publicly rolling out its semantic search engine. The early reviews of the Powerset semantic search have been favorable.

Instead of basing its search results on keyword as Google does, Powerset uses word relationships, concepts and meanings plus other linguistic aids in order to deliver more meaningful results. For instance, if a user types in a phrase or question, they may be directed to part of page where the answer appears and not just the page itself.

During user testing of Powerset, the Powerlabs testers will be able to give search results a thumbs up or down, which will help the developers in refining their algorithms. Google has also experimented with this feature on a limited scale.

But, Powerset may change more than how a search engine delivers results. It may change user behavior in those searches. When was users were encouraged to type in questions that affable butler would try to answer.

Powerset semantic search may be similar in that it may urge users to type in longer search strings, sentences or questions in order to achieve optimal results. Perhaps if Microsoft passes on this technology, then would then be interested since it would take them back to their roots in search.

If user behavior does change in this new semantic world of search, then this will also affect the SEO community. Will SEO’s optimize pages based upon keywords or semantics? Ten years from now, keyword searches may be a thing of the past.

Powerset may not be a Google Killer, but it may start changing the tide as to how searches are performed and results delivered on the Web. And, this changing tide may help Web surfers get their information more quickly and more accurately than ever before.