Yahoo Finance portal to get natural language searches

Yahoo on Monday said it will integrate natural language search functions into its Yahoo Finance portal site, aiming to give professional and personal investors easier access to site content and services.

Dubbed Finance Search, the new function taps natural language search technology from iPhrase Technologies Inc. to deliver features such as on-demand research and analysis, as well as the ability to pose search questions in conversational language.

The natural language capability is enabled by the iPhrase knowledge base that understands concepts and has been tuned to comprehend financial terms so users can articulate questions in a natural way.

The on-demand research feature can crawl a number of separate information stores to build a table on the fly comparing earnings, revenues, and profits from multiple companies, for example, officials said.

Whereas most search engines just convert search requests into keywords, which mostly generates irrelevant results, iPhrase technology can understand the intention behind the query and return the best possible answer, according to Eric Sall, senior vice president of marketing at iPhrase.

"The different presentation options that are determined on the fly based on a query allows easier access to buried content," Sall said.

A strong search engine with natural language functionality can parlay several benefits to a financial site, said Guy Creese, research director at Aberdeen Group Inc., in Boston.

"Especially with financial content, the questions can get pretty complicated and not easy to explain in one keyword," Creese said. The strength of iPhrase is its ability to find the portion of the site that has the information or fabricate a new page on the fly that contains the requested content.

Yahoo was interested in the iPhrase's One Step search capabilities because it would give site visitors expanded navigation tools to wade through the vast array of financial information, said Katie Jacob-Stanton, senior producer at Yahoo, in Sunnyvale, Calif.

"In finance there is so much information available, for specific industries as well as companies," Jacob-Stanton said. "We felt this would be a good tool to crawl though all our information and direct (users) to other places within Yahoo."

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