Technology Spotlight: Will “Summly” Change the Way We Read Search Results Pages?

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Technology Spotlight: Will “Summly” Change the Way We Read Search Results Pages?

Posted by Sam Battin, Senior Natural Search Specialist

A new iPhone application called Summly has been getting some press, along with its creator, Nick D’Aloisio. The future development of this app is worth watching because it could increase the efficiency of search engine results pages for the people who read them. What if search result snippets became more relevant and really helped you decide whether it was worth your time to read the article? Would you spend more time searching, or less?

What the Summly app does is this: you give it a URL and then the app will read the contents of the URL and use AI to decide what the most important sentences in the article are. Then the app summarizes the article into three bullet points.

As you might expect, this app has the potential to save some people time. Rather than read a whole web page to decide if it’s relevant to what you need, the app can present you with bullet points from the page instead. You can read those and make a decision about whether it’s worth it to read the whole article, or try a different search query.

For example, much of a lawyer’s job is to read wide swaths of text to identify relevant arguments. With this application, our hypothetical lawyer can spend more time gathering information from relevant articles, rather than reading the text of dozens of articles that are unrelated to his or her informational need.

Mr. D’Aloisio’s immediate plans are to improve the app’s AI and then license it to search engines and web browsers. We’ll keep an eye out for when that happens. There is a lot of hype for this app to live up to (remember Codename: Ginger from 2001? Don’t hype something that doesn’t exist yet) but if the app works like it says, it could conceivably change the game for search result pages by providing more accurate description snippets.

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