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Update: Forget Jeeves, ask Powerset

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Last month, I blogged about Powerset, the first Google competitor that really nails natural-language search. VentureBeat reports that Microsoft just purchased the Silicon Valley start-up at the rumored price of $100 million. To follow up on this news, here's my introduction to Powerset from May, with some fresh analysis on what this buyout means.

Remember Ask Jeeves? The search engine branded itself as the web’s trusty maître d’. Type in your query – feel free to phrase it as a question – and Jeeves suggested where you could find an answer. But Jeeves turned off many users by directing them toward rather irrelevant websites. Since then, most search engines – including the Jeeves’ replacement, Ask.com – ignore all of those who, what, when, where, and whys. They just pluck out keywords.

Along comes Powerset. This startup website actually reads what you wrote. The search engine encourages you to write the way you speak, and then uses your phrasing to search entries in Wikipedia.

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