Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Google Microsoft

Computer Scientist Calls For Web Search Shake-Up 141

Posted by samzenpus
from the what's-wrong-with-repackaging dept.
alphadogg writes "Given the seemingly non-stop battle between Google, Microsoft and others in Web search, you might think this is a pretty fertile area for new ideas. But a University of Washington computer science professor thinks otherwise and is calling on academia and industry to get way more creative. Timed to coincide with this year's 20th anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee springing the World Wide Web upon us, Oren Etzioni Thursday will have a commentary titled 'Search needs a shake-up' published in the journal Nature. The main obstacle to progress 'seems to be a curious lack of ambition and imagination,' Etzioni writes in the piece, which he acknowledges 'is meant to be provocative.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Computer Scientist Calls For Web Search Shake-Up

Comments Filter:
  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @07:26PM (#36979194)
    I think this idea is DOA. A startup vs Bing vs Google. Enough said.
    • by jjsm (895856)
      Taken from Y Combinator*:

      Startup Ideas We'd Like to Fund by Paul Graham July 2008 ... 16. A form of search that depends on design. Google doesn't have a lot of weaknesses. One of the biggest is that they have no sense of design. They do the next best thing, which is to keep things sparse. But if there were a kind of search that depended a lot on design, a startup might actually be able to beat Google at search. I don't know if there is, but if you do, we'd love to hear from you.

      * http://ycombinator.com/ideas.html [ycombinator.com]

      • Could you define what "design" even means in this context?

        • by mwvdlee (775178)

          "Design" in this context probably means like a pimped Yugo with blinkin' lights and randomly shaped plastic glued to the bottom instead of a sleek and minimalist Porsche.
          Then again, who cares if the first 5 pages of search results are useless when all those 5 pages have gradient backgrounds, glossy buttons and other "web 2.0" goodies?

      • First of all, there's an opportunity for other search systems even within Google - as TFA says, Classic Google Search isn't really designed for the constraints of a cellphone screen (much less for voice-based searches, where the keyword model might not even be the right engine to put underneath the user interface, unlike mobile-phone search where it probably is.) A good mobile-phone search UI would be a real improvement, whether or not you end up selling your startup to Google, or marketing your search t

        • > you've got to think about Apple. They may not want to eat your lunch today, but if they ever do, they'll come out with a product that's insanely great, paradigm-shifting, and shiny, and you'll have to deal with them

          Yeah! The way the Pippin kicked every other game console's ass!

          Wait, what?

          • Note to self: this was BEFORE SJ returned to Apple.

            If he was at the helm then, it is unlikely to have ever seen daylight.

            • Explain the puck mouse, then. It routinely winds up on the lists of worst 'innovations.' Style over functionality is about the only explanation for it

              And, for that matter, the length of time that they held onto the single-button mouse while the majority of their customers were buying third party replacements.

              The Apple III? The one that Jobs himself insisted wouldn't have cooling fans or heat sinks? The one that would get so hot that it would destroy floppy disks and damage the motherboard?

              The 20th anniv

              • It's inappropriate to call it a puck mouse. It wasn't nearly tough enough to be used as an actual hockey puck.

                But then, while the ergonomics sucked, it worked well. That's a lot more than I can say for many of the other mice that have been on the market, including a few from MS, Logitech, and other major brand names.

              • Well of course they've made products that sucked. And there have been some years that Steve saved the company and transformed the industry by introducing computer cases that were transparent blue-green! Oh, wow! Your computer's like a Double Rainbow! It's So Cool! (ok, somehow it did the job, and let him transform the industry again a year or two later by introducing computers that were White, unless it was black that time.) And when they have products that fail, usually nobody buys them, or they buy t

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      I think this idea is DOA. A startup vs Bing vs Google. Enough said.

      Wrong.

      Google appeared on the scene where Yahoo was viewed as the dominant player. Google won their market with a simple, effective, search engine - no garbage ads, results ranked according to search criteria.

      This statement "The main obstacle to progress 'seems to be a curious lack of ambition and imagination,' " is also, IMHO wrong. The main obstacle to progress is the desire to make a whopping big fortune. Google is now as bad as Yahoo was when Google appeared on the scene - people have bought 'words' s

      • by mbkennel (97636)

        "Google is now as bad as Yahoo was when Google appeared on the scene - people have bought 'words' searches in Google no longer are accurate to what I search for."

        Unless google is selling search words (which I think they aren't---ads are still on the right side), this is a consequence of the site owners getting much more sophisticated about gaming the system.

        If it had 1999 level Altavista or Yahoo technology (i.e. look for pages and links which have words similar to the ones being searched for), the first 20

      • Yahoo may have been in more things, but Altavista was really the search engine to beat, and Google beat them. And of course there were other search/portal companies (like Excite, which @Home unfortunately decided to buy/merge for $Nbillion.)

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        try doing some research on crustaceans and I get recommendations on restaurants with crab on the menu.

        I did.
        First page had only one restaurant, as the 4th match.
        All other matches were informative; educationals, museums and non-profits.
        Perhaps when you do a lot of searching on restaurants, Google skews results to prefer restaurants for you.

  • C'mon.

    This dude's name is just a scrabble draw of the 6 most common letters in the English language...and z.

    • Obviously it's not an English name (:-) And there are other Etzioni's out there, such as Amitai Etzioni, but I suppose his name doesn't help refute your theory very well...

    • by makubesu (1910402)
      I would try searching for his name to see if it's real, but search clearly needs a shake up before I can perform such important tasks.
  • And it's over web search?

    That's odd, I thought it was just Google.

    I'm sorry, but I Bing doesn't really count as a serious search engine, at least for me.

    • What's "Bing"?
      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        What's "Bing"?

        Bing was a crooner from the fourties and fifties, often appearing with Bob Hope in the series of movies known as the "Road to" pictures. Road to Morocco, Road to Bali, etc. His last name was Crosby.

        Do not confuse him with Bill Cosby, although I expect that Google will ask you "did you mean Bing Cosby?" should you Google the name. Also not the same as Norm Crosby.

      • by artor3 (1344997)

        Feigned ignorance is pretty pathetic. My grandpa knows what Bing is. Doesn't mean he uses it, but he knows it's there. It's used by about 11% of people... roughly double the installed base of OS X. Are you going to pretend you don't know what a Mac is next? And don't even get me started on comparisons to Linux. Hell, I'd wager that the majority of people honestly don't know what Linux is.

        • by Culture20 (968837)

          Feigned ignorance is pretty pathetic. My grandpa knows what Bing is.

          Congratulations, you've outed your grandpa as having contributed to the average 80 IQ of IE users. Meanwhile, I myself have to admit that whenever I see "Bing" I'm momentarily confused until I remember it's a failed search engine like lycos or that search engine with the cartoon spider with the magnifying glass. Nowhere near the instant recognition of google yahoo, altavista, lycos, etc.

        • If you're going be an a$$hole when replying, you might want to double check your facts first. Here's a hint, your Mac installed base numbers are way low. And if you can't deal with feigned ignorance of a product that gets 90% of it's 11% usage simply by virtue of the fact that it's the default search engine in IE, then you either work for M$ or you need to lighten up. Windows 7 is more than 30% of the installed base, has Bing as it's default search engine, and can't keep those most of those users. By almost
      • Google might answer:
        "Bing is that search engine that copies our results, isn't it?"

      • by jo42 (227475)

        What's "Bing"?

        But it's not google.

      • It means to take a bribe to ruin a good product by integrating an inferior search function. "Verizon binged my Droid".
    • Have you ever used Bing? It doesn't seem like it. While I stick to Google, Bing is just as capable, and has some very cool (and useful) features that google doesn't have.

      • I've used it a few times just so I could answer questions like this. It's rubbish. Maybe they've improved their engine in some way since I last tried it, but Google wins hands down every time.

        • I've used it a few times just so I could answer questions like this.
           
          Well, there's your problem. You used it to show yourself how much you hate it. Try using it for real. I really only use it when I'm having DNS issues for google services (happens more often than I'd like), but Bing gives me results that are just as good as Google's (even if you believe Bing cheats by copying Google, this still goes against your argument).

      • by Culture20 (968837)
        I used it once when it first started and was disgusted. It gave one "answer" on the first page, and you had to go to the next page to find what you really wanted (all of the real links). It's a "decision engine", so it's like Clippy for the Web. Bleh!
        • That isn't how it works. At all. It's a search engine and gives you links on the first page after you search for something.

          • by Culture20 (968837)
            It's how it worked when I used it the first time. Their initial bad design made me realize that I'd never use Bung and would tell others about my experience.
    • I like Bing. works better than Google for me.
  • Search engines aren't about finding stuff, they are about shoving stuff into you in a way that maximizes ad-revenue. And as far as I can tell, they couldn't do that any better than they currently do.
  • But I need access to a data center with thousands of servers, petabytes of storage, and gigabits/s of bandwidth to demonstrate it.
    • by hawguy (1600213)

      But I need access to a data center with thousands of servers, petabytes of storage, and gigabits/s of bandwidth to demonstrate it.

      Ok done! You can find it here: http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/ [amazon.com]

      Can't wait to see your demo!

      • Great, who's gonna put up the $50,000+ for the first month so I can even begin to gather enough data to start performing useful searches. And that's not counting any development time or the learning curve to get familiar with EC2. Got an investor with a few million to spare?
        • by Rary (566291)

          Then build it using Google App Engine. You get a pretty significant quota for free. And bonus points for getting Google to host their next biggest competitor. ;)

          • "You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war." -- Albert Einstein

            You can however simultaneous prepare for and prevent having sex. Many men accomplish this daily.

  • Maybe Search needs a Problem shake up. Innovation is great, but when I search now, more than ever, I quickly find what I am looking for. Spam results remain an issue, but for the most part, I have what I need in seconds.

    So, what's the problem? Why does search need a shake up? Do we need to manufacture new problems? The drinking straw has been around for a little over 100 years. Get creative beverage engineers, make a better straw. One that doesn't suck. ... Oh.

    I understand that the piece is admittedl

    • by RingDev (879105)

      I could see some interesting shake ups in searching as we build more social indexing.

      I mean, imagine if you could adjust search results based on the results' authors relationship to you?

      Looking for a bit of SQL? There's two solutions, but one of them comes from a blog that is written by your former room mate and gets bumped up. Trying to find a good place to eat? Local reviews are handy, but reviews from friends, who you may have a better idea of their expectations and tastes could be significantly MORE val

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        Looking for a bit of SQL? There's two solutions, but one of them comes from a blog that is written by your former room mate and gets bumped up.

        So, do you want Google keeping track of who your former roommates are and that the specific bit of SQL was written not only by someone with the same name but who is actually the same person? Unless you know ahead of time that he is involved in the answer and tell Google to bump the score based on that, Google would have to keep track of it for you so it can do it automatically.

        Otherwise, why not just include your roommate's name in the google search yourself and let Google guess why that name is relevant

        • by RingDev (879105)

          So, do you want Google keeping track of who your former roommates...

          Are you not on facebook, myspace, Google+, Linked In, or any other social networks? Do you use any of Googles document sharing services? Do you follow any blogs/rss feeds? Do you freequent one specific site?

          Google is already tracking this, it's just a matter of mashing all that data up.

          and that the specific bit of SQL was written not only by someone with the same name

          Maybe the SQL isn't even from your friend. Maybe it's a site they freequent. Maybe it's a friend of a friend. Who knows, but social weighting on search results is the next logical step as social networking data is built.

          -Rick

          • by Obfuscant (592200)

            Are you not on facebook, myspace, Google+, Linked In, or any other social networks?

            I am on some of them, but none of them have the information about who my former roommates are. Even if I told them that, for whatever reason I cannot imagine, that would not allow them to know that a name that is associated with a google-saved bit of SQL code is the same person as my ex-roommate. Then we'd have to get around the tiny detail that Google would somehow have to get that information from LinkedIn, Facebook, etc, without my permission, to be able to use it.

            Do you follow any blogs/rss feeds? Do you freequent one specific site?

            I was unaware that using an RSS feed (

            • by RingDev (879105)

              I am on some of them, but none of them have the information about who my former roommates are.

              Specific knowledge of your living history isn't necesary. All that is need is the knowledge that you have previously communicated with this person, and possibly the extent that you did so. The "former roomate" was just a hypothetical to set up a scenario where someone that you had/have a social relationship with could be used to alter search result orders.

              that would not allow them to know that a name that is associated with a google-saved bit of SQL code is the same person as my ex-roommate.

              Unless they used the same user name, or posted it on a social media site that links their post to their google login, or if they include a contact email..

      • Google already does something similar. I've had searches with bumped up results because I follow the author's blog on GReader.

      • by Georules (655379)
        Google already does this, and no I don't want this tracking feature.
    • I RTFA-announcement (There's no actual article yet, I guess, and even if there were, it'd be behind a paywall), but the only thing mentioned is indeed that search is text-based. Apparently, at least for mobile, we'll want voice-recognition, and something along the lines of that Jeopardy!-bot from IBM to give us the answer straight away.

      While that's commendable, neither are particularly search-related. One is voice recognition, a well-understood problem, and I've had no problems telling Google Maps / Navig

    • Re:Before that... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @08:08PM (#36979652)

      Maybe Search needs a Problem shake up. Innovation is great, but when I search now, more than ever, I quickly find what I am looking for.

      I don't. The harder Google and co try to do 'smart' searching the more problems I have finding the things I'm searching for.

      All I want it to do is actually, you know, search for the thing I entered in the search bar, and not try adding or removing 's', picking similar words, picking words that mean the same as the words I'm typing in.

      Google's smart searching may be fine if you're looking for the latest Nataly Portmun hut grit pictures, but for technical queries with acronyms it's increasingly becoming a fscking disaster.

      • Re:Before that... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Obfuscant (592200) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @08:20PM (#36979772)

        All I want it to do is actually, you know, search for the thing I entered in the search bar, ....

        Did you mean "starch bear"? Showing results for "starch bear"...

      • by rasmusbr (2186518)

        You can fix the problem by putting a couple of " around each word, but that is a pain to do if you're experimenting with different search queries. Is there a better way to turn it off? A switch somewhere?

        • This is entirely the problem. In order to be smart and usable, Google strips essentially all non-alphabetic characters, and -- increasingly I find -- completely ignores my requests to search for a literal string or phrase. Domain-specific searches (i.e., a search that can identify code, for example) is something that is not well implemented now. It's all general "search everything". It's difficult to find a specific usage of a specific function in a specific way, for example, as code samples often don't

      • by Twinbee (767046)

        Yes, certain characters are unsearchable, even with quotes around the word. Wouldn't it be great if one could use escape characters to REALLY mean what you type, y'know what any decent parser would let you do.

      • Not to mention the thousands of pages that duplicated an automated, poorly constructed "web site" full of nonsense text guaranteed to match your search term. I have to click through five-ten pages of this crap to find something useful for just about every search I do these days. What's worse is Google doesn't care to match older documents, so relevant but static stuff just ... disappears from the web. So things I found last month, won't necessarily even show up this month.
      • by oldbox (415265)

        I agree. For a fix, try using:

        +"YourSearchTerm"

        and the boolean (AND OR NOT) and NEAR qualifiers in your google searches.

        Or use Web of $cience

    • by oldbox (415265)

      We need:

      No single point of failure.

      No corporate control.

      No Ads.

  • Binspam (Score:5, Informative)

    by blair1q (305137) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @07:49PM (#36979448) Journal

    Shenanigans!

    http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/decidecom-launches---helps-consumers-purchase-electronics-with-no-regrets-124179959.html [prnewswire.com]

    "No other team has the technology, talent and experience in predictive systems to solve this problem," says Oren Etzioni, Decide co-founder and computer science professor at the University of Washington. "We've built the only broad-scale model lineage, text and data mining systems that predict future price and model releases to address this complex consumer problem."

    The dude is just plugging his shopping-search engine, and astroturfing a computing conference as part of his marketing campaign.

    What a cock.

    • by ISoldat53 (977164)
      U Dub is a leisure time subsidiary of MS. I'm surprised he was able to say this.
    • by Animats (122034)

      The dude is just plugging his shopping-search engine

      Which doesn't even work. I put "iphone", "xbox", and "cars" into the search box, and it found no matches.

      They also have one of the most overreaching EULAs for their site I've seen in a while.

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      No, the cocks are the folks at Nature publishing his article and we need to remember it.
      (assuming he's not lying about that).

      We *rely* on scientific journals to be gatekeepers, of a sort, for their relevant field - to cull out the shenanigans, the hucksters, the self-promoters, etc. - so that we can assume that what they're publishing has some value.

      If they're too gullible to prevent this, that lowers their journalistic credibility.

      This is aside from wondering why an article on search tech would be publishe

      • by blair1q (305137)

        Did you email Nature to tell them they're being astroturfed?

      • Peer review is a convergent process viewed over decades and centuries. It's not a particularly good local filter. For my taste, it gets far too much credit for being an effective gatekeeper (most of the time) against errant nonsense. Our pathetic current generation search technology supplements the stem "brog" with a potent example, almost as if it could read my mind.

        We don't think that peer review in software amounts to accreditation of bug-free perfection. In a good setting, it might be a fairly effec

        • by argStyopa (232550)

          No way to send you a private message, I just wanted to say that was extremely cogent. I wish I could rate it up.

  • Innovate. That's an order.

  • Perhaps the lack of creativity and ambition is from the threat of lawsuits....patents, trademarks, and copyright.

    • In this case, that won't happen until some poor software engineer makes a search engine that seriously threatens Google's dominance.
  • All the search engines now generally available use tag-based methods. Among librarians -- who are the real professionals at information searches -- that's a method for quick superficial results.

    Promoting deeper research and understanding is best done with subject-based methods. E.g. the way libraries are organized, Library of Congress cataloguing system, etc.

    Problem is, AI is nowhere near good enough to do that yet. So you need to hire humans, lots of humans, to actually think about the information.
    • by mbkennel (97636)

      "Promoting deeper research and understanding is best done with subject-based methods. E.g. the way libraries are organized, Library of Congress cataloguing system, etc.

      Problem is, AI is nowhere near good enough to do that yet. So you need to hire humans, lots of humans, to actually think about the information. "

      This is not true. Automatic document-topic induction techniques (look up Latent Dirichlet Allocation, for example) are fairly sophisticated these days. It's not strong AI, but it does human-useful

  • Web search has stagnated badly. Or rather it has regressed actually. The databases are getting larger, but the search possibilities are significantly worse than they were in the past. For example, AltaVista had a "near" keyword that could be used to specify that two search terms need to be within 40 words of each other. It also had full boolean logic. What Google offers is pathetic in comparison and is a massive step backwards. Especially with the far larger number of web-pages today, I find myself regularl

    • by mbkennel (97636)

      The degradation is because of the creation of sophisticated site spam designed by clever and hostile parties.

      Google's algorithms today on 1999's web would be exceptionally good.

      • by gweihir (88907)

        I expect not that good either. And the comparison is nonsense anyways, as their present algorithm is tuned to todays web. And, no, I am not wading through heaps of useless "SPAM" results on many queries, it is just irrelevant results because it is very and requires several tries to write a query specific enough.

          Took me years to move over to Google and the only reason was that the database of AltaVista was getting too small. The results were always very sub-standard.

    • by alexcpn (2028962)
      The whole idea of search is that you search when you have no idea where to find something; A more semantic web will enable lesser emphasis on searching;Out of the millions of web sites out there, I guess it is really a handful that is commonly used.This was what I thought first; anything over hyped gives me a negative feeling. Especially over such a basic as search; What more can one expect. But I guess the truth is that keyword search is here to stay forever and is pretty valuable;Especially in the medical
      • by gweihir (88907)

        I completely agree on your medical example. One reason keyword search works well there is that they have their own terminology (Latin), that does not get abused by the mainstream. From my experience, searching for scientific topics still works reasonably well even in English. But already when it comes to engineering, marketing BS and idiotic terminology derived from technical terms often makes keyword search painful and unsatisfactory.

        And, no, I do not want to do without keyword search as well, but I refuse

  • Google is doing an outstanding job getting information collected. But at the end of the day it's just a "dumb" search that matches keywords with content trying to hide results that are just junk. Google is all about quantity of information with some basic garbage filters. There is no real relational information being gathered between content sources.

    The next step in search should be to start analyzing information based on themes and returning results that may not have the same keywords, but are related i

    • by russotto (537200)

      Also, ranking results by reading level, length, etc would probably go a long way to getting rid of junk and help in research. Real text analysis. That would help meaningful content get to the top of results.

      Go to Google advanced search, and you can choose to annotate by reading level.

  • there is room (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I've been steadily using Blekko more and more as an alternative to Google. Its back to simple, with the addition of slashtags to refine searching. The complete banning of content farms caught my attention. its still not ideal but it is growing.

  • ... who's hoping to monetize his public-funded research and make even more money for himself.

    Seriously, have any decent and successful academic search engines NOT been sold off to the highest bidder? I remember Metacrawler came out of UW as well - it became popular and was "commercialized". As was WebCrawler, for that matter. And we all know about Google, of course - those Stanford guys did pretty well for themselves...

  • Viva Gopher Space!
  • Science fair gold medalist, 17, invents better way to search Internet [theglobeandmail.com]

    Watch out, Google: When it comes to Internet search, there's a new competitor in town.

    Seventeen-year-old Nicholas Schiefer has found a better way to search small documents, such as tweets and Facebook statuses - all for his Grade 11 science fair project.

    The Pickering resident created an algorithm to filter through, and find relevant information. Created using linear algebra and discrete math, his algorithm is named "Apodora" after a pytho

  • You can find the actual paper online [nature.com] if you'd like. Being as it is through Nature, and he is not writing it as part of an NIH-sponsored project, the paper is behind a paywall.

    Fortunately it is in the main Nature journal, which is possibly the most subscribed-to journal in science; hence if you don't work for a place that subscribes, you can probably get it at your local library.

    And no that is not an endorsement of putting academic research papers behind paywalls.
  • There is no shortage of software products many of us use online that are rooted in university CS projects. Instead of a generic call to arms, perhaps this CS professor could do something about it. He has the means and the resources at his disposal, after all.

  • by Rizimar (1986164)

    The main obstacle to progress 'seems to be a curious lack of ambition and imagination,' Etzioni writes in the piece, which he acknowledges 'is meant to be provocative.'

    Yeah, but if I started coming up with content that Google couldn't read, it'd be bad for SEO. My rankings would drop and nobody would come and click on my AdSense ads!

  • Not since Multics has academia showed much ambition and imagination in computer science.

Porsche: there simply is no substitute. -- Risky Business

Working...