Powerset is one of the few new search offerings that actually may threaten the status quo, where Google picks up the lion’s share of internet searches (and internet search revenues) simply because they are the best of the mediocre. I’m not knocking Google’s brilliance here, but people are not realizing how great search would be if you could, for example, carry on a conversation with the computer rather than try to constrain the dialog in ways that meet the needs of the search algorithms. Powerset probably won’t be a conversation with the machine, but if they can crack the nut of natural language search even Google may tremble, as they are currently weak in that regard and it appears they have not been spending the time and money in that direction.
Natural language search is basically the idea that you’ll tell the computer exactly what you need, and probably refine the query as you would if you were speaking to a person. This may not do much for advanced “power users” who know how to use boolean expressions and advanced query refinements to get at the info they want, but it could be a wondrous thing for the other 99% of searchers out there who struggle every day trying to get Google Yahoo, or MSN to deliver the great specific results they need.
I still predict that eventually it’ll be Artificial Intelligence applications that bring us “near perfect” results as they’ll be able to screen spam and process good stuff at light speed, but great AI search is probably at least a decade away.
The search game has just begun and it’ll be fun to see how Powerset fits in.