Periodically, natural language search gets trotted out as the next big thing - now is one of those times. As most people know, this has been going on for years and never seems to amount to much. Today's crop includes Powerset and Cognition and Hakia.
Why might this be? I can show you: take a look at this concise summary of the famous AOL search query data, how many queries are correct English prose (articles, prepositions, etc.)?
Now, I'm not much of a mathematician - but even I can see that the number approaches zero.
This fact established, I asked myself - are all these people stupid? It's unlikely, they seem pretty smart to me. So what could be going on? Well, Powerset has, in a very short time, created an impressive concealing cloud of coolness - not to mention high valuations. They were even able to structure their financing so that the founders can take cash out without any liquidity event - the so-called FF class of stock. Now, if I'm the entrepreneur, I can't get enough FF stock, but from an investment point of view, I am more wary.