New Kid Coming To The Block: Powerset

Powerset Inc, a Silicon Valley company, is developing a new type of search engine which does not function based on the typical Google, Yahoo or Microsoft technique of keywords. Rather it is a natural language search engine, which uses a natural language processing techniques to “read and understand every sentence on the Web”.

Although the company has not released the search engine for use, for public or private testing, they have a Powerset Labs section on their site where invited users can provide feedback on the design of the search engine. Users are also given a peek at technology demonstrations that show off the search engine’s capabilities, which currently for the lab’s purposes has only indexed Wikipedia pages. At least, that is what they are saying on their blog. You can sign up for the labs at http://labs.powerset.com/, however, there is no guarantee that you will get an invite.

There does appear to be a few problems with the site, such as the lab’s login and extended the sign-up pages timing out, but I guess these things are expected with a start-up. Especially a start-up which is gathering more and more recognition – Powerset recently presented at TechCrunch40. A video of Powerset presenting at the TechCrunch40 2007 conference can be seen on the TechCrunch20 site.

Windows Safari

Apple has just recently released Safari 3 beta and with this release, they have included an XP and Vista version, for the previously Mac only browser. Steve Jobs announced the release of Safari 3 during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (see video here) and showcased some of its features and benefits. Aside from the claims of being “the best browser ever”, Jobs also claims that Safari is 2x faster than IE7 and 1.6x faster than FireFox 2.

Personally, I’m not a fan the Mac look and feel, especially that big grey toolbar, however, there are a few features which are useful, if not at least intriguing. For example, while tabbed browser, you can drag a tab off the tab toolbar and a new window will be opened with that tabs contents displayed. Another useful feature is the ability to resize text areas, without the need for this to be implemented by the website (of course this is available in FireFox through the use of a Resizeable Form Fields extension by Justin Watt).

Aside from the aforementioned features of Safari, it does appear to render HTML quicker than IE7 and FireFox. However, there are a few bugs or unimplemented features which should be included. One notable downfall is the lack of support for the scroll wheel click feature (I’m not sure if this is lack of support for my Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000 or if it’s not included at all), which is presumably a direct side effect of the mac mouse having a 360 scroll ball instead of a wheel. Another downfall I noted was that the tab toolbar does not always close once you close all of the tabs (excluding one), but granted it is only a beta I’m sure that bug will be fixed before the final release.

All-in-all I think Safari is just another standard browser really, and I’ll be sticking with FireFox for now. However, if you would like to try out the new Safari you can head to http://www.apple.com/safari/ and download your free beta copy. Or alternatively, you can download the real “best browser” from http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/. :-p

Update June 13th: Apparently there have already been several vulnerabilities found in Safari.

News.com.au Maps

Although it appears to be about 7 months old, I recently stumbled across a useful Google Maps mash-up from News.com.au. The ‘News Map‘ places 10 articles (they say 10 on their site, but it appears to be a lot more than that) from the news.com.au World and National sections on to the Google Map interface, allowing users to see where particular stories are taking place. In order to determine the geographical coordinates, Metacarta is used to extract place names from the articles and convert them into longitudinal and latitudinal references.

Of course, this isn’t the only mash-up of its kind, with others providing such Google Maps displays with articles from the Associate Press, and news.bbc.co.uk. You also have your alternative implementations, such as a map by multi.co.za, which allows users to click on a country and be presented with a list of articles, from an array of aggregated news sources, which reference that selected country.

Gmail

For those that have been living under a rock and haven’t heard about gmail.com yet then here is your chance to experience the latest in webmail.

Gmail is a new way of looking at the now standard webmail, which has been made widely available by large providers such as Hotmail and Yahoo. Gmail (google mail), has added a whole lot of extra features their services, including conversational view, Labels, 1000 Megabytes of storage, and not to mention the added functionality of Google’s popular and powerful search capabilities.

As Gmail is still in its beta stages, to become a member you need to be invited into Gmail by an existing member. I have come across 12 invites and as I already have an account they are of no use to me. If you are not already a member and are interested in the new features available by Gmail then simply leave a comment or email me with your email address and I will send you an invite. *first twelve people

Update October 9th, 2005: Lots of Gmail invites; if for some reason you still don’t have a Gmail invite, contact me and I will send you one.