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Internet search is getting smarter

business Updated: May 10, 2009 22:19 IST
N Madhavan
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Search remains the workhorse of the Internet, alongside e-mail, while many other fancies come and go. Last week, I stumbled on something cool while doing a Google search. Some might say that it has been around for a while, but the problem — and the opportunity — in the fast moving world of the Internet is that great things are happening faster than we can notice them.

I was trying to convert feet into metres, something that we do often, and I wanted to look up a Website that could give me a table. But guess what? I got my answer right away thanks to Google’s Calculator function when I typed ‘foot metre’ as a search string. One foot is equal to 0.3048 metre, said the very first search result. It was Google’s own data system (although there are many good conversion sites as well).

Some standard search functions have been advanced to generate reliable answers right away.

If you say Time London, the current time in the city shows up as a search result, more like live information and less like
a clunky look-me-up thing.

Even definitions work wonders. If you say “define graphology,’ the first search results stream throws up a fairly reliable, intelligent answer.

Search, which was some years ago criticised as being a needle-in-a-haystack mess, has got much refined. Come to think of it, when databases started, people had to do courses to find out how to search for information. From then came English language search, which even gave rise to websites like Askjeeves.com (named after Wodehouse’s famous knowledgeable butler character)

Ask Jeeves does give you sensible answers, and throws up suggestions in the search box. It is far from being the smart agent that its name suggests but it does help.

madhavan.n@hindustantimes.com