A panel of engineers from A9.com, Google, and Yahoo! gave attendees a look at recent developments and some future plans for the search engines. DeWitt Clinton of A9.com, which is a subsidiary of Amazon, focused on the OpenSearch feature, introduced in March 2005. He says it basically offers a common format (currently RSS but in the future Atom and others) for information sources and engines to become searchable via A9.com. The company likes the vertical search concept, and, as an aggregator site, now offers searching of more than 200 content sites—sources like Wikipedia, PubMed, and even the Seattle Public Library. Clinton said that Microsoft is building OpenSearch 1.1 directly into its next version of Internet Explorer.
Peter Norvig of Google talked about some of the recently implemented direct answers within Google, such as stock quotes and weather, and answers to fact-based questions (like “population of Japan”). Currently being developed in the Google Labs is a statistical machine translation product. “It’s not perfect yet, but it’s certainly very usable,” he said. He also talked about the satellite maps in Google Local and how people use common APIs to add data to the maps, such as the 911 call locations in Seattle.
David Mandelbrot of Yahoo! explained that FUSE reflects the company’s vision for search—Find, Use, Share, and Expand. He said one recent example of finding and using content is Yahoo!’s partnership with Creative Commons. The recently introduced My Web 2.0 is an example of social search. It lets users save pages, tag and annotate, and share with others. Finally, the company is Expanding with its involvement in the new Open Content Alliance—the digitization project that I blogged about earlier.