However, in order to do this well, Hakia needs to have access to as many Web pages as possible, and this is where BOSS fits in. For a given query, Hakia uses Yahoo’s BOSS index to determine a set of relevant results. Hakia’s software then determines whether these pages have already been analyzed by the company’s semantic software. If they haven’t, they will be processed, and the results will be stored on Hakia’s servers. “We crawl the Web anyway,” says Berkan. “But without Yahoo’s index, we’d be behind on the sites that people are searching for today.” And the more popular pages Hakia scans, the better its index will be.
Another semantic startup, called Cluuz, from Ontario, Canada, is taking a slightly different approach. When a user searches with Cluuz, she will see Yahoo BOSS results, but they are reordered according to the startup’s own semantic search technology. “When you do a query,” says Alex Zivkovic, CTO of Cluuz, “we pass it on to Yahoo BOSS, and we get a list of results back … Then for each of those pages, the Cluuz engine analyzes the content, extracts entities–people, companies, phone numbers, and those sorts of things.” These concepts, he explains, are then checked against the concepts found on other pages, and the concepts that arise most often are deemed most relevant.
“Instead of looking at pages being linked based on the physical links, we’re looking at them in terms of whether or not they are talking about the same concepts,” says Zivkovic. This leads to a different user experience, he adds. For instance, terms relevant to a search query are pulled from the Web and highlighted on the right of the results page. A search for “Kate Greene” immediately pulls up my e-mail address at Technology Review, the university I attended, and a number of the people I’ve interviewed for past stories. Additionally, Cluuz provides other tools that allow the links and relationships between different semantic concepts to be visualized easily.
Even with the power of Yahoo’s index behind a company, there’s no guarantee that Hakia or Cluuz will be a success. But if they do take off, it could help Yahoo, which still lags way behind Google in terms of popularity, regain the edge. “The underlying philosophy [with BOSS] is, we’re not going to be able to invent everything on our own,” says Raghavan. “So we should facilitate innovation.”