This Story from Digital Mass puts an interesting spin on a new web site that offers to respond to a typed-in question with an answer and an attributed source, usually in as little as a tenth of a second. The Web site is Factcity.com and if they do indeed pull this off, could put a few Reference Librarians out of work. Check it out and let us know what you think.
Fact City is not a search engine, but a company that sells its service to search engines and portals.
Last week, ESPN.com and Fox\'s sports Web page unveiled Fact City-powered services that can take a baseball query and give an attributed answer. Type in the question: \'\'How many game-winning RBIs did Mo Vaughn hit in 1996?\'\' You\'ll get the answer: \'\'Thirteen in 161 games for the Red Sox, according to STATS Inc.\'\'
Sports is only the beginning. In time, Fact City hopes to provide Web-based access to Census population numbers, restaurant listings, corporate financial statements, election results, geography facts, crime statistics, movie trivia - basically any kind of information you could imagine looking up in a book full of tables.
The world is seeing a mad rush to develop search engines that will find the needle in the Internet haystack, which now totals something like 1.5 billion pages of information.
Besides such meta-search engines as Googol and Northern Light that try to organize results from multiple searches, one of the better-known attempts to respond to questions is Ask Jeeves. But it mainly works by steering you toward the half-dozen Web sites that seem most likely to answer your question.
\'\'Ask Jeeves pretends they\'re like Fact City, but they\'re not,\'\' says Robin Schreier Hohman, an analyst with The Hurwitz Group in Framingham who specializes in Web search engines. \'\'Fact City is the first one I have seen that answers a specific problem that has not been addressed yet.\'\'