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The New Searchers

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Cornell Professor Jon Kleinberg
Cornell Professor Jon Kleinberg

Behind Google’s simple search box are a complex set of algorithms. Search experts say they are updated constantly, but the same old search page and the listed results don’t hint at the work being done to improve search. That work can be tracked on the Communications Web site, which uses the Google Search Appliance.

Google executives discuss a major change in the company’s approach to search in an interview series by Digital Daily’s John Paczkowski posted under the Opinion bar on Communications’ site: http://cacm.acm.org/opinion/interviews/30077-google-and-the-evolution-of-search-whats-next-in-search-much-much-better-search/fulltext. The company now uses an unspecified number of individuals called Quality Raters located around the world to evaluate and improve results. They’ve added a human touch to the search process. That’s just the start.

Researchers are looking to apply spectral graph theory to improve Google’s PageRank algorithms, as reported by Kirk L. Kroeker (http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2008/9/5305-finding-diamonds-in-the-rough/fulltext), and Google is trying to index and add Deep Web pages to the billions it searches today, notes Alex Wright (http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2008/10/535-searching-the-deep-web/fulltext).

The unchanged Google page doesn’t hint at any of this, but the changes are evident to experts when they plug the same terms into Google and perform a search repeatedly over time. When the search is over the results are different.

A more contemporary face of search is Cornell Professor Jon Kleinberg, whose efforts to determine relevant, trusted sources were embedded into the Hubs and Authorities algorithm. Kleinberg was awarded the 2008 ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in the Computing Sciences, cited for his contributions to improving search techniques employed by billions of users worldwide (http://cacm.acm.org/news/25188-network-pioneer-cited-for-revolutionary-advances-in-web-search-techniques/fulltext). Searchers’ tendency to click the top item on a search page reinforces the primacy of sources identified by Kleinberg’s linkage-based algorithms, which may prompt further refinement (http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2008/2/5454-are-people-biased-in-their-use-of-search-engines/fulltext).

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UF1 Figure. Kleinberg lecturing at Cornell.

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