By Peter Young
Given the recent improvements announced by Google it should come as no surprise that another search engine has recently announced a raft of improvements to their search experience. This time it’s Ask.com who have announced a number of advances to their semantic search technology.
With semantic search one of the key search battlegrounds over the next couple of years, Ask introduced a couple of new semantic technologies namely DADS(SM) (Direct Answers from Databases), DAFS(SM) (Direct Answers from Search), and AnswerFarm(SM) aimed at breaking new ground in the areas of semantic, web text and answer farm search back in October 2008.
According to Erik Collier, vice president of product management at Ask, the Ask technology is unique because it enables web surfers to type real questions, instead of a series of keywords. When interviewed by TechNewsWorld back in June 2008, he went on to say
To find out what football games are on the TV Sunday afternoon, users simply type in, for instance, “What NFL games are on TV this Sunday?”
That is where DADS comes in. The acronym stands for “Direct Answers from Databases.” The technology takes structured data feeds and converts them into information that Ask.com tags.
“It’s different than a traditional syntactical text matching. We’re understanding what the subject is, so we have discrete subjects. We’re talking about TV listings, event listings that have a much smaller semantic breath than a general word search. We optimized that, and it is discrete. We are able to identify that as a TV query; translate the different piece[s] of your sentence into what they really mean.”
Initial trials of this have mainly centered around TV listings. Further to this Ask.com have now expanded trials into NASCAR related information—chosen because of the significant buzz that is generated around the sport—particularly of structured data—something which is central to the new Ask technologies.
Whilst integration of this technology is currently limited, it certainly shows a level of innovation sometimes lacking from some of Ask’s competitors. On a personal level I am not sure this is going to lift Ask above competitors such as Google, Yahoo and MSN in the short term, however it is certainly indicative of an ongoing commitment to search, which is often in doubt.
Peter Young is a UK search marketing Manager for MVi in Manchester as well as regular contributor to the Holistic Search blog.