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New developments put pressure on search engines

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As Google and its rivals move into traditional research information territory, they could face challenges of their own. A new type of search engine, scheduled for launch in early 2007, is the latest project from Jimmy Wales and his for profit company Wikia.

The new search tool being developed is based on human editorial judgment rather than the algorithmic search approach adopted by other search engines. Such ideas have already proved successful on another project that Wales launched, the not-for-profit online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, a freely accessible tool for specialist biological and medical searches has recently been enhanced. The iHOP service provides summary information on more than 80,000 biological molecules by automatically extracting key sentences from millions of PubMed documents. The developers, at the Computational Biology Center at Memorial Sloan lettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), USA, claim that the tool is now able to provide daily updates and process about 2,000 new publications per day.

‘By using genes and proteins as hyperlink sources between sentences and abstracts, iHOP converts the information in PubMed into a navigable information network, exploiting the power of the internet for scientific literature investigation,’ said Robert Hoffmann, a Sloan-Kettering Institute postdoctoral fellow who started the iHOP project when he worked at the Protein Design Group in Madrid, Spain. ‘We plan to extend the iHOP concept to full-text sources and the algorithmic exploration of gene networks.’

Researchers involved in searching multimedia resources should keep an eye on developments in the enterprise search market. The European Commission has recently announced funding for a research project in this area that will be led by Norwegian search firm Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) and involve 12 other European partners.

The aim of the Platform for Search of Audiovisual Resources Across Online Spaces (PHAROS) project is to build a next-generation audiovisual search platform. It is expected to transform audiovisual search from a point-solution search engine model to an integrated search platform approach, incorporating future user and search requirements as key design principles.

The PHAROS Search Platform will create a new infrastructure for managing and enabling access to information sources of all types, supporting advanced audiovisual processing, content-handling and management that will enhance the control, creation and sharing of rich media content for all users.

‘With the high growth rate of multimedia content production, increasing broadband access, convergence of devices and users’ sophistication level rapidly rising, it is essential to drive the development of advanced multimedia search capabilities further,’ said John Lervik, FAST’s CEO.