Saturday, January 29, 2005

Google chasing digital identities

Niall Kennedy posted recordings of a few talks at Future Salon, including one by Eric Sachs (PM at Google).

Eric made some intriguing comments about your digital identity, the information online about who you are and what you do. He started by motivating the problem:
    We [at Google] quite frequently hear that what doesn't work well is doing a Google search about someone else.
So, just searching for someone by first and last name often doesn't work very well. And that's a very common search; it needs to work well.

The problem isn't trivial to solve. For example, a home page by itself isn't enough if you can't find it. Even when you can find data, the information is often stale and incomplete. Finally, there's nasty issues with separating identities, differentiating between people with the same or similar names.

Eric even went as far at one point as to claim that the "primary purpose" of both Orkut and Blogger is to solve this problem, to help people "define some type of digital identity on the internet."

One interesting approach to this problem is Eliyon People Search. They try to extract information about people from web pages. "Try" is the key word here -- it's far from perfect -- but the idea of summarizing web pages to do people search has some promise. I wouldn't be surprised to see something similar from Google at some point.

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