says Microsoft is spending $100 milllion to acquire Powerset, one of the most-hyped of the much-hyped semantic search engines that Silicon Valley has fallen in love with.
What are semantic search engines, and why does Silicon Valley love them? Semantic search, or “natural language” search, is supposed to divine searchers’ intentions more accurately than today’s standard offerings — which means Google. And creating a search engine that works better than Google would have obvious benefits for whoever figures it out. Hence Hakia, Twine, etc.
We’ve been sceptical about the ability of semantic search to deliver results that are significantly better than Google’s, and think that Google does a very fine job of figuring out what we’re looking for. But we had previously assigned a value of $80 million to Powerset, predicated primarily on the idea that someone who wanted to take on Google would find the company attractive. Now that looks like a reasonable hunch.