May 29, 2022

"Search needs a shake-up" According to University of Washington Computer Scientist

“Search needs a shake-up” is the the title of a commentary in the latest issue of Nature by Dr. Oren Etzioni.

If you don’t know Etizioni by name you do know his work. His accomplishments are many and include:

  • Co-Developer of MetaCrawler (an early web metasearch tool)
  • Farecast (now offering fare predictions on Bing Travel)
  • Co-Founder of ClearForest

The full text of his commentary is available to Nature subscribers or for a fee.

A summary and additional comments from Dr. Etzioni are available in this news release from the U. of Washington.

Oren Etzioni calls on experts to, literally, think outside the search box. The piece is being published on the 20-year anniversary of Tim Berners Lee unveiling his World Wide Web project.

Etzioni doesn’t mince words. In the article, he writes that the main obstacle to progress “seems to be a curious lack of ambition and imagination.”

In a phone interview, Etzioni was more conciliatory.

“The piece is meant to be provocative,” said Etzioni. He acknowledged that the leading search engines have hired many smart people – including hundreds of UW graduates.

“Despite all the talent and the data that they have, I don’t think that they’ve been ambitious enough,” he said. “This piece is meant to provoke people, to challenge them to go further, to think outside the keyword search box.”


More and more, we’re going to be accessing the web through mobile devices with tiny screens,” Etzioni said. “As you do more and more of that, it becomes harder and harder to type in keywords and see long lists of blue links.”

“People are going to be clamoring for more intelligent search and a more streamlined process of asking questions and getting answers,” he said.

Etzioni proposes that instead of simply looking for strings of text, a web search engine would identify basic entities – people, places, things – and uncover the relationships between them. This is the goal of the UW’s Turing Center, which he directs.

Read the Complete U. of Washington Summary

Direct to Dr. Etzioni’s Home Page
Enough interesting material to keep you reading for years!

Learn More About the Turing Center and These Turing Center Demos:

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.