First published on Technorati
Meet Dorthy and Jinni: they're virtual friends of yours. They understand your hopes and dreams, and some days, they know just how you feel and suggest things to suit your mood. Dorthy and Jinni don't really know each other, but they both seem to know you very well.
Semantic search engines have existed for years, borne from the same university science and math labs that spawned companies like Google, Bing and meta-search. Unlike keyword-based search, semantic queries look at the language and context to derive meaningful results.
Semantic search sites have not widely caught on with consumers, despite the fact that they claim to provide a broader topical perspective by seeking related content and associated concepts, not just the keywords entered. Google rolled out semantic search capabilities early in 2009 to respond to critics who suggested Google has not done enough to increase relevancy since becoming the search juggernaut. Both Jinni (in Beta) and Dorthy (in Alpha) attempt to put a consumer-friendly experience around the science of natural language processing and semantic search by providing a way for the average web user to extract immediate value from robust results sets faster than scrolling through a single list of tens of thousands of linked pages.
Web search has become the de-facto browsing activity for many Internet users, and consequently the prime advertising vehicle for many websites. It's often the first activity a user does when they open their browser. However, semantic search tools and natural language processing can enable related concepts to surface, turning what otherwise would look like a flat map of the world into a 3D satellite view, giving any topic more dimensionality and texture.
Dorthy is a social search engine, which means it hunts and gathers content related to topics you choose across the web and creates a dynamic page on its site that it populates with relevant content continuously. If you check back on how Dorthy's research is going, you can meet the people Dorthy has met along the way who are also looking to learn or accomplish the same things. Dorthy touts herself as a "topic based social network" and, rather than bringing back content from keywords, Dorthy looks at the semantics of a phrase or queried topic and builds a story about that topic on a page she creates just for you. Aggregating "content, communications and connections" empowers Dorthy to introduce you to people who share your interest in a topic, or a personal goal.
While Dorthy is more of a cocktail party host, making social introductions to new people and interesting things, Jinni is the friend that gets your particular moods and favorite things. Jinni focuses on very specific recommendations about your taste in movies, and while she'll introduce you to people with similar likes and dislikes, Jinni isn't really the host of the party. Rather, Jinni performs like a food taster who tells you what dip you'll love and when to stay away from the sushi. And Jinni will support you at any party where there is movie talk, enabling you to watch via Amazon, Netflix and other online entertainment services. Jinni's expertise comes from around 50 genes she has identified for each movie, which makes her much more succinct in nailing what you're going to want to watch.
In Jinni's case, limiting the search domain to movies helps her create deep content expertise and use that to unravel nebulous, subjective concepts like mood and taste, which then map to the films' meta-data and provide an understanding of a movie's content. Beyond a social referral, Jinni looks for patterns in story line, character archetypes, and plot devices which can help associate the right results with the consumer's taste or mood at a particular moment. Dorthy, on the other hand, continuously works 24/7 to find people, places, and content across multiple sources related to the nouns and verbs in the "dream statement" you create. When Dorthy returns from her mission, she represents views of that concept from many dimensions and through a perpetually updated collection of knowledge she creates just for you.
As the Internet has become flooded with content, we all look to referrals from taste-makers, analysts, and friends, to help discover what is called "the long tail" of content, those shining lights of original insights and particular bits of information that are just right for us at a particular moment in time. Now though, it could be that we've all got new BFFs in Dorthy and Jinni, and the other smart girls we meet in this Internet search class.