21 August 2008 | Tanya Goodin

Search engines need a better understanding.

It will be years before users will be able to type a question into a search engine and get exactly what they looking for. “What do people mean when they type Olympics 2008?”  Shashi Seth, chief revenue officer of Cooliris. He said that guessing what a search query means is still an art and thinks search engines are only successful 40% of the time.

Part of the problem is the rapidly growing volume of content on the web. Search engines are also moving towards what they call universal search – results that takes the form of audio, video, maps, blogs and more all combined into one hoping that users will find an answer to their search query quicker.

Newer and smaller search engines are defining news ways to find and display their data in order to make them seem different to Google. Yahoo is releasing technology that allows online publishers to change the way their websites are displayed. Seth said that there is still much more work to be done as web searchers don’t type good enough queries – the average is still 2 words long. And there’s the challenge of making sense of all that data.

BooRah, a search company in Mountain View posed a question to the 5 major search engines in an informal survey “What is the population size of Japan?”  By which none of the search engines returned a correct answer. Only when the term “size” was removed did the search engines return the correct results. “The burden is on understanding” said Nagaraju Bandaru, BooRah’s chief technology officer.

Tanya Goodin

Tanya Goodin

Founder of Tamar