Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cognition Technologies to power Microsoft's Bing now!

According to this news, Bing will also be powered by Cognition Technologies as Microsoft has licensed its technology for its search application. It is an interesting news because Congnition Technologies was always compared with Powerset who Microsoft acquired for $100 million plus in June of 2008. It is not replacing Powerset technology but adding more power to its capabilities. What is the relevance behind this non-exclusive licensing?

Though, Bing has made lot of improvements in the last year, to become more relevant in the search space and grab more share of the search market, it still needed to add more semantic capabilities in its arsenal. Bing is perceived to be good in following things:
  • Clean interface and a good user experience
  • Excellent information aggregation capability
  • Extracting concepts and summarization
  • Very useful for advanced search on Wikipedia and Freebase

Precision and Recall (the two criteria to measure the accuracy/relevancy of search results) is always a debatable topic if you ask any search company. Eveybody claims different results! As far as capability to undersatnd semantics/meaning of query is concerned, that is also debatable as you get mixed results if you test different queries with different search engines. Different techniques are used to really understand the meaning of a query by all semantic engines. But in case of Google, it gets its context from the humungous amount of data it indexes - they are processing so much data that they have lot of context around things like acronyms etc.. Suddenly, the search engine seems smart, like it achieved that semantic understanding, but it hasn't really. There have been instances where I have seen google nailing it quite accurately! So what is left to measure the effectiveness of search engine? Probably, this is the reason, the site traffic ends up becoming the only crietria for effectiveness or success. But, it takes years to build traffic and every improvement in the search engine counts.

I believe that Congition's real value propostion in this licensing is its advanced semantic map (think of it as a combination of dictionary, thesaurus, ontology etc.) which has millions of semantic connections that are comprised of semantic contexts, meaning representations, taxonomy and word meaning distinctions. Bing should benefit from this in making its query parsing more powerful and in improving relevance!

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