Yahoo Answers Gets Major Search Upgrades, Email Alerts

Yahoo Answers, the number one Answers/Q&A search engine on the web, has announced a series of improvements to the search experience on the site. The new search options are a welcome addition to what was long one of the site's Achilles heels. Here's an overview of some the new tools: Search results can now be sorted by relevance, time (newest/oldest), and number of answers (most/least). These sorting options have been available when browsing categories, but I believe they're new to Yahoo Answers' search results pages. The sorting options appear at the top of the search results. On [...]

Will Quora Challenge Google? No. Is It Useful? Yes

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal ran an article in conjunction with Quora's public beta launch. The article framed the discussion as Quora (and its kin) vs. Google: The race to build a successor to Web search is heating up as a number of young companies seek to fill gaps they see with Google Inc. One of the hopefuls, Quora Inc., made its public launch Monday after months of private testing. The Palo Alto, Calif., company, co-founded by two early Facebook Inc. engineers, wants to collect and organize information people have in their heads but that may not be available online, such as [...]

The “Anyone Know” Search: How Twitter Is Good For More Than Brand Monitoring

Many marketers understand Twitter search is a powerful way to monitor brand mentions and reach out to customers. But I think few realize what a powerful platform it provides to reach out on non-branded generic mentions. To better illustrate this, let me introduce the "Anyone Know" Twitter search. Actually, I'll explain "Anyone Know" toward the end of this article. To provide the right context for it, I first need to cover the brand monitoring that's already so well known. Brand Monitoring On Twitter Comcast is the classic brand monitoring story, covered over and over again. Comcast wa [...]

Yahoo Answers Hits One Billion Answers

Yahoo Answers -- by far the largest answer search engine on the web -- says it passed the one billion answer mark within the past week. In today's announcement, Yahoo has also shared several other interesting stats about the Q&A service: Yahoo! Answers currently receives: 823,966 questions and answers per day... that works out to 34,331 per hour or 572 per minute which is 10 questions and answers posted EVERY second! Last December, Yahoo announced that Answers has more than 200 million users around the world, with 350,000 new visitors per day. Of note: Today's post says Ya [...] Loses “Pole Position” To Google Dictionary has a strong URL (if not a brand) and lots of traffic, more than 25 million monthly unique users. It was the source of definitions in the "definitions" link in the upper right of Google SERPs. The key word in that last sentence is "was." As of yesterday, without fanfare, Google replaced with its own dictionary. This will be an interesting test of's strength and resilience. It will undoubtedly loose considerable traffic (how much is the question). And because it's ad supported that will mean a corresponding loss of ad revenue. Furthermore i [...]

Mobile Answer Engines Battle Search Engines

A class of mobile "help" or "answer engines" has arisen as an alternative to traditional search engines. They hold out the promise more efficient, relevant or direct responses to queries than search engines can provide on the small screen. In several cases they involve the use of live human agents or a community of users to answer questions. Examples include Aardvark, ChaCha and kgb Answers. This "community answers" capability is also nascent within Facebook and Twitter. Also in this category is the yet to launch "personal assistant" Siri, which taps artificial intelligence rather that rea [...]

NetBase Debuts “Semantic Search Showcase” With HealthBase

Netbase is an enterprise-facing software and search company that appears to have one of the most advanced search platforms in the market. Earlier this week during a briefing Netbase marketing and product VP Jens Tellefsen asserted that no other search provider in the consumer or enterprise segment was as advanced -- an audacious claim. Tellefsen went to considerable lengths with me to back up the assertion, however. He said, "The closest thing we've seen is what Powerset was trying to do." But he added that Powerset was essentially an elaborate proof of concept (subsequently acquired by Mic [...]

Wolfram Alpha To Enable API, Open Data To Others

Not long ago "computational engine" Wolfram Alpha struck a deal with Microsoft to license some of its data to Bing. Now, according to the Guardian UK, Wolfram is going wide with that strategy and will soon enable an API that third parties can use to create mashups or enhance their sites. This may be a step toward monetization and/or an admission that as a "search destination" it's foundering. Wolfram today has a defined range of data (see the Wikipedia list), making it unpredictable for those not familiar with its capabilities and limitations. Chris and Danny both wrote positive reviews [...]

“Help Engine” Aardvark Makes Twitter An Onramp For Q&A

Danny has described Aardvark as a "help engine" and I've called it an "answer community." Whatever term you want to use to characterize the service it's very interesting and has enormous potential as a kind of search engine alternative or complement for recommendations, opinions or complex questions. There are other services that are similar though not identical (see, ChaCha, kgb, Yahoo Answers, Hunch). The closest is probably Mosio, which seems to be morphing from a consumer-facing service into a kind of B2B platform. For those not already familiar with Aardvark (or Vark), it matches peop [...]

Hunch Doing ‘Pretty Well,’ Co-Founder Says

Barely two weeks after its launch, Hunch is already taking stock of its progress. "How well do we think Hunch is working?," asks co-founder Chris Dixon. "Pretty well, although we still have a ways to go." Writing on the Hunch blog, Dixon explains that the decision engine is using what it calls "success rate" as its best measure of Hunch's accuracy. Hunch defines success as when a user clicks "Yes" on one of the top three results and doesn't click "no" one one of them. Dixon says the site's success rate is at 81% now, up from 70% when the private beta site was launched. Their goal is to get [...] Expands AnswerFarm Q&A Database

Continuing its move from being a traditional search engine to an "answer engine," Ask today has announced that its "AnswerFarm" database has tripled in size, from 100 million Q&A pairs to 300 million. Ask says they've also improved the quality of the Q&A database content: "Our semantic search technology advancements in clustering, rephrasing, and answer relevance enable us to determine when we have multiple questions that all semantically mean the same thing, so we can aggregate those Q&A pairs, filter out insignificant and less meaningful answer formats, and thus find the most relevant [...]

Hunch: A Real Decision Engine

Caterina Fake's enthusiasm for her latest project is contagious. Hunch is now open to the public, but it's still three days pre-launch when we talk and, at this point, about the only uncertainty is how best to describe it in all the media interviews she's doing. Phrases like "Q&A community" and "knowledge tool" are mentioned, but "decision engine" is what the Hunch team settled on some time ago. And, for a couple reasons, the timing appears to be perfect: First, Microsoft is throwing around $80 million to promote as its new decision engine. "We owe them one," Fake says. "Bing [...]

Up Close With Google Squared & Some Wolfram Alpha Thoughts

One of the more interesting things to me that came out of the Google Searchology event this week was "Google Squared." It's a new search tool launching later this month that tries to build spreadsheet-like answers to anything you search for. I had a few screenshots from the event that take a deeper look that I wanted to share, plus how it compares to the forthcoming Wolfram Alpha fact engine. Google Squared (it'll launch here in the future) allows you to search, then it compiles results in tabular form -- rows and columns. For any search, Google examines the pages that it finds and tri [...]

Microsoft Shutting Down QnA, Questions & Answers Site

LiveSide reports Microsoft has decided to close down the Question and Answer portal, MSN QnA as of May 21st. Microsoft said: At this time, we are closing the QnA site, but the experience of running QnA and gathering all of the great feedback you’ve shared with us will certainly influence future product direction. QnA initially launched as a beta in August 2006 and we even rated it fairly well in December 2006. QnA had a major upgrade about a year ago today. Google had their own Questions and Answers which they closed down in 2006. Yahoo Answers is still very dominate in this a [...]

Impressive: The Wolfram Alpha “Fact Engine”

Much attention has been focused on the forthcoming Wolfram Alpha search service. Will it be as important as Google has become? Perhaps! A new search paradigm? Yes! Or at least a new way of gathering information. A Google-killer? Nope! But when the service launches, it should become an essential in anyone's search tool kit. Wolfram Alpha is backed by Stephen Wolfram, the noted scientist and author behind the Mathematica computational software and the book, A New Kind Of Science. The service bills itself as a "computational knowledge engine," which is a mouthful. I'd call it a "fact [...]

Google Launches Public Data Search & Charts During Wolfram Alpha Demo

During the Wolfram Alpha demonstration today, the Google Blog announced the launch of their own structured data search feature that allows you to find and compare public data. Searches such as [unemployment rate new york] will now bring up a quick answer that looks like this: Clicking on the result will take you to a more detailed graph with ways to plot other data on this charge. Below is me plotting Rockland County, New York, compared to New York State and also adding California: Google promises to add public data for answers on prices of cookies, CO2 emissions, asthma frequenc [...]

Wikia Search To Close Up Shop reports that Wikia Search is giving up and closing up shop. Search Wikia launched an alpha release in January 2008, where Chris Sherman gave it a poor review. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikia, told "It was going to take at least an another year to two before it's usable by the public, and we can't afford that right now." Due to the economy and the need to get to "profitability" right now, Wikia Search needs to shut down. Two full-time employees will be out of a job due to the decision. Wales said that Wikia Search only had 10,000 unique users a month over the past six mo [...]

Microsoft Kills Encyclopedia Encarta

Ars Technica reports that Microsoft has decided to discontinue their encyclopedia software, Encarta. Both the MSN Encarta reference Web sites as well as its Encarta software will be shut down. Microsoft said: On October 31, 2009, MSN® Encarta® Web sites worldwide will be discontinued, with the exception of Encarta Japan, which will be discontinued on December 31, 2009. Additionally, Microsoft will cease to sell Microsoft Student and Encarta Premium software products worldwide by June 2009. We understand that Encarta users may have questions regarding this announcement so we have prepare [...]

BioNumbers – Specialty Biology Answer Search Engine

Today, I met with Dr. Ron Milo who works in the field of plant sciences at Weizmann Institute in Israel, who showed me a specialty search engine project he built from the ground up named BioNumbers. In short, BioNumbers is a collection of common biological numbers that is useful to one's research. For example, the average diameter of a protein is 5 nanometers. This week, I am on a special trip known as the Blogger Delegation to Israel. We are being taken around by the Israeli Consulate to learn about Israel and the people who live here. Clearly, my focus is on search - so when I went to the [...]

Wolfram Alpha To Challenge Google?

Better Search Doesn’t Mean Beating Google from Saul Hansell at the New York Times does an excellent job breaking down the latest Google threat, or lack there of. A secret search engine named Wolfram Alpha is being designed now by Stephen Wolfram, a British mathematician. Wolfram Alpha differs from Google in that it hopes to be an answer search engine, kind of like's goal. But the "Google killer" is not only within the technology, said Hansell. It is also in Google's "success with users and advertisers" that made Google what it is today. Plus, as Hansell explains, Nova Spivack' [...]

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