The Future of Search Has Arrived… And Its Name is Swingly
You’ve Googled. You’ve probably Binged. You may even have Varked. But you haven’t Swinglied yet.
Swingly isn’t your run of the mill search engine. In the 45 minutes I spent on the phone with him this afternoon I feel like I got an education about the state of search (eat your heart out John Batelle) and where we’re headed.
First, a little bit about Andy. He’s also the CEO of Language Computer Corporation, which is a government contractor. I don’t understand a lot of what he probably does in that capacity (nor can he tell me…. insert the “I’d have to kill you” joke here), but as an example the technology that his company uses has about 100 times the amount of semantic tags as the competition. He’s also got the academic credentials to back up what he does with a master’s degree in linguistics from UC-SD. Swingly is essentially a consumer version of what they do for the government. But on steroids.
You can get a little more background (founding, financing, etc.) on Andy and Swingly by checking out an interview that Bradley Joyce did last year.
Where Search Is At
Google currently uses a keyword based search. It’s a little more complex than that, but basically that’s the whole thing. You give it some words and it runs through its database to find the pages that have those keywords and that have the most relevance as determined by PageRank. You, the user still have to dig through those results to find the information you’re looking for. Sometimes there might be hundreds of thousands of results (though we all know you consider yourself an avid researcher if you get past page two).
Then there’s social search and Q&A sites. Yahoo Answers is the most well know of the Q&A sites, and Aardvark (recently acquired by Google) is one of the pioneering companies in this sector. Basically, you go to the site and ask a question. At Yahoo Answers, people who have nothing better to do browse around until they know the answer to a question. The incentive to be thought of as an expert. Aardvark employs a slightly different approach. They hook into your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to try and find someone that you know that knows the answer (or a friend of a friend) based upon what they say their areas of expertise are.
The problem with these is that there’s no guarantee of credibility. On Yahoo Answers, there’s no way to know if wizardmaster420 is a credible source of information on database server configuration. At least with Aardvark, they give a real name.
There’s other semantic search engines out there. They either scour the web to try and piece together pieces of information in different context or they enter vast amounts of question and answer pairs. What sets Swingly apart is that they have a much better group of data sets to scour through. They also do both semantic indexing and real time web search.
How It Works
Let’s say I want to know who the first manager of the Texas Rangers was. In Google I’d type in some keywords. “Texas Rangers first manager” Then I’d take a look at the first one or two (out of over 1.5 million) results and decide which one looked most credible. Then I’d click though and maybe scroll through to find the information, or use Ctrl+F (or whatever the equivalent is for you Mac people… that weird infinite loop+C right?). In Swingly…. I just ask it the question. “Who was the first manager of the Texas Rangers?” And then I’m given an answer (Mickey Vernon).
There’s a lot to love about Swingly. They’ve got patent pending semantic search models for the semantic web. As of this afternoon, they had more than 120 billion (with a B) question and answer pairs. They use both their own semantic index as well as real time web search (so the content is always fresh). And after playing around with it this evening I have to say that while it’s not perfect…. it’s a REALLY amazing start. It doesn’t do well with how to, process or opinion type questions, but it really shines for factual questions (think more “What’s the RGB value of red” and less “What’s the best color”). Users can also submit feedback to help Swingly learn, and unlike other user-generated answer sites, Swingly attempts to fact check any answer that’s submitted by a user.
Swingly isn’t going to compete with Google, Bing, Aardvark, Yahoo Answers or Mahalo. But it will compliment them in a very real and useful way. Swingly fills in the gaps that currently exist with search technology.