Search Engines Making Sense of the Web Encyclopedically?
I think almost everyone today is aware of the collaborative volunteer written Wikipedia and the important positive or negative influences this project has had on the web in terms of reference. However, I am not so sure everyone knows that there are also search engines out there today attempting to make sense of the web by referencing information found on the Internet in an encyclopedic format. These search engines are trying to organize the web in such a way that when individuals query a topic they receive an encyclopedic like summary of the subject matter as a response. This type of search can possibly come in quite handy and be invaluable when trying to grasp a new unknown subject or when wanting a general overview of a specific topic where you have very little prior knowledge. What follows will be my look at some of these search engines.
A Look At Factbites
Factbites was created by Rapid Intelligence, a content technology company based in Sydney, Australia that focuses on computational linguistics, data mining, data warehousing and artificial intelligence. According to their web page factbites is a place where results make sense and the focus is more on content analysis than link popularity. The approach used by factbites is to provide users with meaningful, relevant sentences from every site in the search results. The major benefit of this approach is that it allows one to gain a great deal of factual information on a topic without ever having to leave the search page. Is factbites better than Google? They seem to think so, as they have a page that compares Factbites vs Google. The page provides a good argument for one to consider using factbites for encyclopedia style searches that I tend to agree with. After trying out a few searches it seemed to do what it advertised. Another positive about this search engine is that the user interface is very polished. It provides you with the results in a clean fashion and doesn’t clutter your screen with too much noise. Overall I was very pleased with the goals of this search engine and I will probably have more than one occasion to use it in the future.
A Look At SenseBot
This search engine is being developed by a New York company called Semantic Engines LLC a firm that focuses on information search and retrieval, text analysis and understanding and question-answering systems. According to its website the technology that they are using is protected by Patent Pending. More specifically, the website states that SenseBot is a new type of search engine that delivers a summary in response to a search query instead of a collection of links to web pages. At the moment it uses the results of Google and Yahoo and returns a concise summary of the topic being queried. They suggest that SenseBot would be beneficial for a user trying to understand a concept, identify the best source of information on a topic or understand a particular area of knowledge. Other areas it could also be useful for are to get a summary of a person, event or activity. The website provides a good selection of sample queries showing how Sensebot can be put to use. In my brief use of the search engine it appears to do an adequate job of summarizing. I tested it by querying Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton and it provided useful summaries but not what I would call comprehensive. The user interface for this search engine is not as elegant as factbites at this point but I am sure it will improve. This search engine is useful at the moment and with some refinement in the future can definitely hold some promise.
A Look At Answers.com
Answers.com was launched in January 2005 by Answers Corporation and is more like your traditional encyclopedia. Today its website boasts that it is your free “one-stop shop” with instant information on over 4 million topics. Answers.com has collected authoritative facts by licensing top-quality reference work to give its users comprehensive, relevant information. The reference content comes from publishers such as Houghton Mifflin, Columbia University Press, Thomson Gale, Britannica, Barron’s, Computer Desktop Encyclopedia, MarketWatch, Investopedia, All Media Guide, Who2, AccuWeather and eSpindle. A test search querying for Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton returned much more concise and comprehensive encyclopedic summaries of both individuals than SenseBot did. The user interface of answers.com is quite elegant and readable. If you need a quick comprehensive trustworthy encyclopedic reference on a topic or individual this website is definitely a must to consult.
A Look At Creedopedia
The last search engine I want to highlight briefly is a specialized one called Creedopedia. It is a more focused encyclopedic search engine that concentrates on religion. Its goal is to make your search for useful information on religions of the world easier. The user interface for the search engine is simple and the results page is astonishingly similar to that of factbites in look and feel. I did a search for the term Christianity and thought the results returned were reasonable. If you need a focused encyclopedic search engine on religion this is as good as you will probably find.
From my superficial look at these search engines there appears to be a lot of innovation happening to provide useful encyclopedic search results to users. Since I have only scratched the surface in writing this I have probably missed some very good encyclopedic type search engines. It will be interesting to see how much more refined and relevant these systems can become in the future but at the moment they are very usable alternatives.