Improving web search

January 16, 2012

Research from Victoria University could help search engines understand people’s queries much better.

Although 80 percent of searches immediately find what people are looking for, sometimes it takes hours to find the right page, says Dr Daniel Crabtree, who graduated with a PhD in Computer Science at Victoria’s December Graduation.

He designed new algorithms that give search engines a better understanding of the meaning behind a user's queries.

"Search engines still throw up mixed results with ambiguous search terms. If you searched for ‘jaguar’ for instance, it could refer to the animal, the car, even an Apple operating system or ‘80s video game console.

"Search engines currently don’t deal with that ambiguity because they simply search for web pages that contain the words you’ve entered.”

He says the algorithms he has developed group pages together—which is called clustering—to separate different interpretations.

The algorithms use statistical language models to ‘see through’ the search terms and capture the intended meaning of a query.

"One aspect of the model for instance is that it recognises word order. If you typed in ‘New Zealand air’, for example, it would cluster results around air quality rather than Air New Zealand which is the search result you get from Google."

Dr Crabtree says his model aims to help search engines understand queries and group related words together to deliver what someone is “really searching for”.

"Search engines don’t appear to have improved that much in recent years. That’s partly because they’ve been focused on other issues, such as revising their search algorithms to stop spam or companies ‘gaming’ the search results," he says.

Although his model has been tested on a small scale and he has spoken to major search engines about his research, none of them appear to be using it yet.

"The major search engines seemed interested in hiring me a few years ago, but I’m keen to continue working on some of my other projects," says Dr Crabtree who started his first web business when he was 13 and attended Stanford Business School in 2008.

Although it has changed over the years, his original business continues as Big Fun Town— — a website featuring free browser-based games.

Since doing his PhD, he has been working on a new web concept—“focused on finding and sharing information on the internet”—codenamed Project Mandelbrot.

Explore further: Grant to help researchers build better search engines

Related Stories

The engines of change

November 5, 2010

In today's wired world, search engines have changed the way people find data, and social searches are making it even easier to find exactly what you're looking for, with a little help from your friends. For example, a recent ...

Search giants make websites easier to find

June 2, 2011

Google, Bing and Yahoo are working together to enable websites to tag content in a way that lets search engines better categorize and prioritize the information in results.

The economics of database searching

August 11, 2011

( -- Searching the internet might seem simple, but applying a little bit of economic theory to information retrieval can shed some light on the best search strategies to adopt, according to researchers.

iSchool prof predicts the future of search user interfaces

November 7, 2011

School of Information professor Marti Hearst predicts the future of online search interfaces in an article in this month’s edition of the Communications of the ACM. “The future of user interfaces will involve ...

Recommended for you

US Navy keeps electromagnetic cannon in its sights

June 25, 2016

The US Navy is quietly pushing ahead with a radical new cannon that one day could transform how wars are fought, even though some Pentagon officials have voiced concerns over its cost and viability.

Flower power—photovoltaic cells replicate rose petals

June 24, 2016

With a surface resembling that of plants, solar cells improve light-harvesting and thus generate more power. Scientists of KIT (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) reproduced the epidermal cells of rose petals that have particularly ...

Video privacy software lets you select what others can see

June 28, 2016

Camera-equipped smartphones, laptops and other devices make it possible to share ideas and images with anyone, anywhere, often in real-time. But in our cameras-everywhere culture, the risk of accidentally leaking sensitive ...

Computer model demonstrates how human spleen filters blood

June 27, 2016

Researchers, led by Carnegie Mellon University President Subra Suresh and MIT Principal Research Scientist Ming Dao, have created a new computer model that shows how tiny slits in the spleen prevent old, diseased or misshapen ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.