Powerset: The Robot Ninja Search Engine

    June 29, 2007

Powerset, a company that focuses on “natural language search,” recently discussed its to-be-released-in-September search engine, and there’s some very interesting stuff going on.  Very interesting, and very hard to understand.

If you imagine a young boy trying to come up with a movie plot – he’d probably suggest something involving a time-traveling robot ninja – you’ll get the right idea.  Powerset’s COO, Steve Newcomb, likewise seems to have thrown out every “cool” concept that came to mind.

“Imagine a mashup between Facebook, Digg and Google Apps, but you get to participate in the building of the products that sit on top of our platform,” said Newcomb, as reported by ZDNet’s Dan Farber.  “You log into a social network, like you would Facebook, and you get certified to be a Powerlabber.  Once certified you can join different interest groups, such as travel, and participate in idea and mashup competitions.  QA is embedded and it’s all bloggable.”

I’m baffled, and I’m not alone.  “What does that mean?” asks Techdirt’s Mike Masnick.  “I’ve read it many times and I still can’t figure it out.  He goes on to mention MySpace, Second Life and Wikipedia, of course.  It sounds like the company is trying to build the ultimate web platform – which is a good strategy, but it needs to get away from buzzwords and patents and actually explain what makes it useful.”

To be fair, though (not that Masnick isn’t), we’ve seen some impressive stuff from Powerset in the past.  Some onlookers have even labeled it a “potential Google-killer.”  Yet it looks like we’ll have to wait to hear from those Powerlabbers – or perhaps even hang out until that September release – to find out what’s really going on with at Powerset.