In a new round of funding Hakia, the natural language processing search engine has raised additional $5M. The money came from a previous investor, some of which are Noble Grossart Investments, Alexandra Investment Management, Prokom Investments, KVK, and several angel investors. With plans of fully launching some time next year, Hakia has been working towards improving its relevancy and adding some social features like “Meet the Others” to their site. Hakia is known to have raised $11 million in its first round of funding in late 2006 from a panoply of investors scattered across the globe who were attracted by the company’s semantic search technology. As far as we know, the company’s total funding is now $16M.
We think that from all alternative search engines, excluding Ask.com and Clusty.com, Hakia seems to be one of the most trafficked engines with almost 1M unique visitors as we last checked the site’s publicly available stats. If it is us to rank the most popular search engines I would put them the following way: Google, Yahoo, Ask.com, MSN, Naver, some other regional leaders, Clusty and perhaps somewhere there is hakia going.
On the other hand and according to Quantcast, Hakia is basically not so popular site and is reaching less than 150,000 unique visitors per month. Compete is reporting much better numbers – slightly below 1 million uniques per month. Considering the fact the search engine is still in its beta stage these numbers are more than great. However, analyzing further the traffic curve on both measuring sites above it appears that the traffic hakia gets is sort of campaign based, in other words generated due to advertising, promotion or PR activity and is not permanent organic traffic due to heavy usage of the site.
In related news a few days ago Google’s head of research Peter Norvig said that we should not expect to see natural-language search at Google anytime soon.
In a Q&A with Technology Review, he says:
We don’t think it’s a big advance to be able to type something as a question as opposed to keywords. Typing “What is the capital of France?” won’t get you better results than typing “capital of France.”
Yet he does acknowledge that there is some value in the technology:
We think (Google) what’s important about natural language is the mapping of words onto the concepts that users are looking for. To give some examples, “New York” is different from “York,” but “Vegas” is the same as “Las Vegas,” and “Jersey” may or may not be the same as “New Jersey.” That’s a natural-language aspect that we’re focusing on. Most of what we do is at the word and phrase level; we’re not concentrating on the sentence. We think it’s important to get the right results rather than change the interface.
In other words, a natural-language approach is useful on the back-end to create better results, but it does not present a better user experience. Most people are too lazy to type in more than one or two words into a search box anyway. The folks at both Google and Yahoo know that is true for the majority of searchers. The natural-language search startups are going to find out about that the hard way.
Founded in 2004, hakia is a privately held company with headquarters in downtown Manhattan. hakia operates globally with teams in the United States, Turkey, England, Germany, and Poland.
The Founder of hakia is Dr. Berkan who is a nuclear scientist with a specialization in artificial intelligence and fuzzy logic. He is the author of several articles in this area, including the book Fuzzy Systems Design Principles published by IEEE in 1997. Before launching hakia, Dr. Berkan worked for the U.S. Government for a decade with emphasis on information handling, criticality safety and safeguards. He holds a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Tennessee, and B.S. in Physics from Hacettepe University, Turkey.
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