July 15, 2008, 12:00 AM

Microsoft seeks a better Live Search with Powerset natural language tech

In its latest move to improve its Live Search Internet search platform, Microsoft Corp. has acquired Powerset, a provider of natural language search technology.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

In its latest move to improve its Live Search Internet search platform, Microsoft Corp. has acquired Powerset, a provider of natural language search technology. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

“Powerset brings with it natural language technology that nicely complements other natural language processing technologies we have,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s senior vice president for search, portal and advertising, says in a recent Microsoft blog posting. It will help Live Search get to the next level of performance, she adds, “by adding understanding of the intent and meaning behind the words in searches and web pages.”

“We know today that roughly a third of searches don`t get answered on the first search and first click,” Nadella says. “Usually searchers find the information they want eventually, but that often requires multiple searches or clicks on multiple search results.”

Nadella adds that Microsoft sought out Powerset particularly for its team of natural language experts, including Powerset co-founder and chief technology officer Barney Pell, who can help to improve search results by better matching the intent of each search with the information embedded in web pages.

Kevin Lee, chairman, CEO and co-founder of search marketing firm Didit, says Live Search users should look for indications of more relevancy in search results stemming from the additional natural language search expertise. “Some elements of the Powerset technology will undoubtedly make it into iterations of the Live Search algorithms, perhaps both on the organic and paid-search side,” he says. “Any advantage in relevance will give Microsoft an opportunity to stimulate trial and get converts to their search platform.”

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