The Evolution of Search Engine Technology
Natural Language Processing
Some non-Boolean systems attempted to utilize “natural language” processing. AskJeeves, a search engine launched in 1996 and now known simply as Ask, first allowed users to ask questions just as they would if they were in conversation with another person. Instead of “President and U.S. and 1856,” someone could ask “Who was President of the U.S. in 1856?” But the results didn't deliver as well as expected. Non-Boolean systems have since improved but are still limited by the inability of computers to process natural language well. Many modern search engines can answer simple queries such as “How do I get from Denver to Salt Lake City?” They have been programmed to recognize “from” [place] “to” [place] as a request for directions.
One of the problems of posing queries in natural language remains that if you tell a computer you're looking for a mustang, for example, it doesn't know if you mean the horse or the car. If you tell it you want information about “a 1990 fire-engine red sports car,” it's going to deliver results about “fire engines,” not about “a used MG, good condition.” Computers match words, but they do not make associations or recognize synonyms. This is a limitation that software writers hope to change.
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