The news yesterday that Microsoft is likely buying semantic search provider Powerset had those of us in the community buzzing. Besides the valuation per se this event provides several thoughts about the maturity of our technology, its value and its future.
What will Google do now? This is the first question that comes to mind. They are on record as saying they "explore all technologies that can provide users a better experience". But they also say that it is unlikely users can ever be re-trained to type out full sentences in the form of questions as Powerset requires you to do.
Clearly Microsoft doesn't think this is a problem. I think it is disingenuous of Google to put forward this notion. Simple keyword search serves up more pages than a precise semantically based search married to a semantic based index. And isn't that the point if you are ad driven? More pages served means more ads served means more ads clicked means more revenue. Who would want to change that?
On the other hand there is an argument to be made for fewer pages to be served when those pages are more accurate. If the ads placed on the fewer pages were also more accurate the monetization of the ads (what Google or anyone else could charge for the ads) goes up. Maybe that's what Microsoft has in mind. And wouldn't that be one of the first real challenges to Google's dominance?