SIGIR'12: State of Semantic Search

The last day of SIGIR has brought a workshop on entity-oriented and semantic search that was attended by some of the leading researchers in the field. The workshop started by John Shafer clearly demonstrating the limits of current web search.

In this example Google gets completely confused by the phrase "around $300" since it doesn't understand that car gps is a device which has a property price which range can be specified by saying around $300.

While such deep understanding is still quite far away from being used on a large scale by Google, Bing, and others, they are more successful at mining semantics about entities by analyzing data from the web, which seems to be, at least in principle, a solved problem.

Once we have identified entities and their properties, we can search for information on a very different level, as demonstrated by Hannah Bast. The Broccoli search that she has presented works only on English Wikipedia for now, but it has quite some potential to be used also on the wider web.

The feeling I got from the workshop is that semantic search is slowly getting out of trough of disillusionment and is slowly entering slope of enlightenment. Maybe in a few years users will finally get back results for what they mean not for the words they've used in their query.