Hakia narrows search results by vertical, starting with healthcare

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Semantic search engine Hakia is following up its recent licensing news with a new scheme to attract users: Results that are narrowed according to the vertical you’re searching, starting with healthcare.

When you search on a health-related subject in Hakia — whether you’re looking for a medication, treatment or condition — the engine will recognize it as medically related and restrict its initial search to “credible” resources, in this case, those vetted by the Medical Library Association.

Hakia’s engine has been slowly improving over the last few months, to the point that most searches return a mix of useful and not-so-great results, which is about as good as Google has ever done. Restricting results to select sites is a way for the company to seem to accelerate development without more heavy-duty work on its core technology — essentially, a clever trick.

Trick or not, Hakia has landed on a way to differentiate itself and try to capture a few more users. It’s an interesting approach; Hakia could potentially limit results according to any number of verticals, such as travel, sports or finance. The ability to recognize queries related to a particular subject is pretty neat and helps to filter out some of the junk included in regular searches.

That doesn’t mean the company is following Powerset’s example of working only within certain domains (mostly Wikipedia, with some Freebase thrown in) to improve the results returned from those specific sites; Hakia is just performing a regular search on its limited selection of healthcare sites. Hakia’s suggested search for the question “What are the benefits of aspirin” (try it out here) is far from perfect. A simple search for info on prilosec, shown below, was more impressive.

Powerset, which I also recently wrote about, does want its results to be perfect (as much as possible), although that will limit the speed of its expansion. Hakia, though, seems happy to try to exceed Google’s usefulness by a thin margin and hopefully win over followers with time as it continues to improve its index and technology.

I tried out a few other searches, and got mixed results — take a look here and here. Readers, how valuable do you think Hakia’s technology is at this point? Is vertical-based search an improvement?