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Deal Radar 2008: Powerset

Posted on Monday, Jul 7th 2008

Powerset concentrates on natural language processing (NLP) to search the web, meaning that the search engine uses whole phrases rather than just keywords, making it easier to get the results required. The site currently uses natural language queries to search Wikipedia. Powerset’s real strength is the way it indexes web pages: pages are analyzed according to semantics, or the meanings of words and of the relationships between them; similar words; and categories to find better results.

VentureBeat discusses how Powerset’s results focus not only on web pages but also portions of these pages which may be relevant to the query, and Don Dodge explains how the technology works and what its implications are.

Powerset’s technology is about understanding the meaning of the content the user is looking for rather than just the keyword-based search query.Powerset was acquired by Microsoft on July 1, 2008 in an attempt to improve the software giant’s search market share.

Rumors indicate that Microsoft paid over $100 million, but neither party has disclosed any numbers. TechCrunch reports that Google was not interested in acquiring the company.

Powerset was founded in late 2006 by Dr. Barney Pell and Gian Lorenzo Thione. In November 2006, it raised $12.5 million in financing from Foundation Capital, The Founders Fund, Paperboy Ventures and angel investors. It also had debt of $8 million, bringing its total to $20.5 million. The site was launched in June 2007 and is currently only focused on Wikipedia searches. Powerset is based in San Francisco and will continue to operate from there.

Compete reports that the people count for May 2008 was around 200,000, a sharp jump from less than 25,000 the previous month.The potential for Powerset to outdo Google under Microsoft exists, but is a mammoth task and the company still has a lot of work to do. For Microsoft, the smartest strategy would be to apply Powerset to various vertical search problems. Unconstrained Semantic Search is very difficult to implement. You can read my piece on this subject, Web 3.0 and the Semantic Web, to catch up on the details.

This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2008

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[…] attention to the verticalization opportunity and not merely buying online space to experiment. They also announced the acquisition of semantic search engine Powerset, which I hope they will apply to gaining ground in vertical search. Unconstrained Semantic Search is […]

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