Israeli whiz kid behind Google’s new searches


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Pressed to find a name for his new technology enabling a more accurate Internet search, Israel native Ori Allon looked to Greek mythology — and perhaps his own name.

Allon in the few hours he had opted for Orion, the great hunter, reasoning that his creation is a modern-day hunter. He suggested, too, that perhaps the contraction of his name is “maybe why I liked it.”

He says the new Orion allows Google users to conduct “an expert search without having an expert’s knowledge.” The Australian university where the 29-year-old Jerusalemite developed the technology says it has “revolutionized” the search engine.

Allon developed the complex algorithm behind Orion in 2005 while doing research for a doctorate at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. Google bought the exclusive rights the following year for an undisclosed sum after a bidding war with Yahoo! and Microsoft, and also hired Allon. He has spent the past three years working at Google headquarters in California.

Launched March 24, Orion offers two major improvements to Google searches, Allon told JTA in a telephone interview.

A Google search now produces results related not just to the keywords but to other keywords associated directly related to the topic. For example, Allon says, a search for “Israel” will return results that include Jerusalem, the Six-Day War, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert.

“We have mountains and mountains of texts that correspond to Israel, and we try to identify patterns, terms and entities that are closely related to Israel,” he explains.

Orion processes them in milliseconds and works out which are the most important. In addition, queries of more than three words now will display longer descriptions, so users don’t have to visit several Web sites before finding the correct one.

“We’ve improved the snippets so you can identify the right results before you click,” Allon said.

Allon will return next month to Sydney, which he calls “the greatest city in the world,” for his graduation ceremony. Prior to that he’ll spend Passover in Israel with his family, who he says are “pretty proud” of him, even if “they don’t fully understand the whole thing.”

After completing his army service in 2002, Allon left Israel for Australia. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Monash University in Melbourne before moving to Sydney for his doctorate.

“Every day there is someone like me who becomes a celebrity for 24 hours and then people forget about it,” Allon told JTA. “It’s really important to stay fresh and be able to address as many queries as possible.”

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