The other night brother Abe, founder of Deep Web Technologies, and I were having a conversation about the term “federated search.” Abe told me about an article published in New Idea Engineering titled “What’s in a name: Federated Search.” Author Miles Kehoe also ran into a customer who believed that federated search meant the searching of content that had been “federated” into a single index and searched from the one index. Specifically, Kehoe wrote:
“… our customer – whose search team is staffed with equally bright folks – were of the opinion that a federated search meant that content from a number of different data stores would be indexed into a single search index, where users could enter queries and see results from all of the data stores would come from that one master index.”
I thought, “Gee, that’s interesting. Why is he telling me this? Kehoe’s experience with his customer must be unique.” Then Abe shared with me that he was at a conference a while back in which someone he was talking to had the same impression. Abe explained to the person that the term was most commonly used to refer to searching for content that was simultaneously accessed from multiple sources, with multiple indexes powering the search engines from the different sources whose content was being federated.
The distinction, of course, is crucial. If you’re meeting with a potential customer who believes you’re discussing an approach where all content is harvested, indexed and accessed from one source but you think you’re discussing live search of heterogeneous sources then you’re talking apples and oranges.
I spent some time Googling for other stories of confusion over the term’s meaning but couldn’t turn up any interesting references. So, either this confusion isn’t widespread or it’ll take someone more clever than myself to find examples on the web.
Have any of you run into this particular confusion? Do share.