The launch of Cuil, a new search startup that claims having a larger-then-Google index, generated a lot of noise in the last few days. First the hype around the company for its large database and low indexing costs (1/10th of Google’s, they say), then the flood of negative comments soon after the launch for the bad quality of the results provided.
There’s still much to improve in search, and although extremely useful and the best around, Google (disclosure Google is an investor in Fon) is still far from perfection. A lot of potential is in the semantic web, a buzzword that indicates the evolution towards a structure of the web where computers will be able to understand, combine and manipulate the data on the Web and so provide much improved search and other kind of smart tools.
One of the interesting startups entering the search space (along with Powerset, Mahalo and Wikia) is True Knowledge, a company based in the UK that just announced a second round of financing for its alternative approach to search. So what is True Knowledge doing? They are building a knowledge database and with their Answer Engine give their users direct answers to their questions, based on the information collected. By comparison, Google will instead show you a list of web pages where part of the content has one of more of the words in your search query, ordering the results using an algorithm called PageRank.
True Knowledge aims at providing users with instant answers to complex questions, saving them the time to find information and arrange them to find an answer. They do so by “structuring data in a way that enables computers to work and think like humans do, drawing inferences and conclusions when needed to find the information that’s requested”.
But it’s not just machines doing the hard work for you. Like for Mahalo or Wikia, the active involvement of humans is what makes the product interesting: True Knowledge is looking for experts around the globe to build its information database and combining machine’s automation with people’s intelligence.
While startups are working to develop innovative solutions to our search needs, I wonder what Google is working on in their labs and if there will ever be a Google-killer or the tremendous experience, talent and resources that Google has accumulated in the last ten years will be enough to guarantee them the first place in the race to the next generation of search.
Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars