French search engine Exalead was granted a patent this week on a query refinement process that provides suggestions for categories and keywords in response to a search.
Searching tool and process for unified search using categories and keywords
Invented by Francois Bourdoncle, Patrice Bertin, and Eric Jeux
Assigned to Exalead
United States Patent 7,152,064
Granted December 19, 2006
Filed: August 14, 2001
A database of entries, such as Web pages and sites, is provided. The entries are at least partially mapped to a set of predetermined categories. The entries are also associated with keywords, for instance, by automatic indexing of documents. In response to a query into the database, a user is provided with a series of refinement strategies, in addition to search results. Refinement strategies comprise categories relevant for the search, selected among the set of predetermined categories. Refinement strategies also include keywords dynamically selected among keywords associated with the entries. The user may easily navigate among the results to the query, and formulate new queries.
If you try a search on Exalead, the query refinements appear in a box on the right of the results. I haven’t used Exalead that much in the past, but I do like that they offer some search options that I haven’t seen on many other search engines, such as phonetic spelling (soundslike) and adjacent words (near).
There are a couple of published patent applications in the USPTO database for Exalead, also: