Fri 1 Feb 2008
Yesterday we have decided to publicly show “Sprinters Search” – a research project we did at Code Sprinters in the recent month. It is a meta-search engine that attempts to provide the user with a short definition of the search term followed by unaltered results of a regular, traditional web search.
This project is a result of an idea that came to me last year. It occurred to me that today people are frequently using search engines not to find a well-sorted list of pages on something they do know, but rather they want to learn what a word or a name or a phrase they picked up somewhere (in a conversation, on the Internet, on TV etc.) means, what that is. Said well sorted list of pages helps only partially in getting the definition people are after. An attempt to provide a very succinct and correct description as a result immediately would be much better. Such a result could be followed with a traditional page list if the engine’s guess was wrong or the user wants to research further.
I thought that with lots of structured information now available on the Internet building something like that should be quite possible. After all, when current search engines were invented they were designed to parse just general web pages with no structure to them at all. Now we have all kinds of data and content bases that provide good quality information in a structured way. It seemed quite possible, so we gave it a try.
And here it is our fully working attempt at demonstrating that it is indeed possible. The aim was to provide – in most cases – a correct definition of the search term upfront, on the top of the page, possibly with an image, so that the user doesn’t have to scroll down or click through to get the definition he needs. I’d say for an early beta our meta-engine does pretty well – thanks in part to simple yet ingenious algorithms applied by Pawel Stradomski who designed that part of the code.
Of course, it is still just a research project. To make it robust and scalable resources we don’t have are be needed – much more computing power and fast storage + more time to fine-tune the algorithms. So for now we’ll leave it as it is – a good demonstration of our capabilities.