I wondered if anyone had looked at Powerset. It does something really interesting by providing you information without you having to actually leave the list of results. It's on wikipedia data only at this time, so the results are generally good and there are ways of narrowing your search. As the index isn't very big is much easier to be more accurate. You can also use natural language queries.
My main point is actually:
What do you think about using an engine which aggregates information relating to your query and allows you to access the info without leaving the results page? How do you think this would affect SEO?
(This method would of course mean that the engine has a good understanding of human language and is able to define user intent.)
They: a) use good human filtered data b) use very little of data
This works fine with Wikipedia search but there is a big question whether it can scale to web level - thats dirty data and 10000 times more of it than Wikipedia. This creates a whole set of totally different problems to solve - and natural language processing will not help solve all of them.
Yes, it's working on a closed domain, but at this point I think the most interesting thing is the way you access information.
Scalability isn't even a word in their vocab right now i would think. I see this more as a playground for some good ideas right now. Wikipedia is a favourite for testing with.
I don't think anyone is working solely with nlp when building or designing language based systems anymore, A.I was a natural addition to the arsenal. It's just not quite doing what we'd like right now :)
I very much like the idea of not having to go to a website to get my information.
I am very sceptical about pure NLP systems and web search - Microsoft has been working on NLP since like forever and this is almost as bad as object oriented file system that they wanted to introduce in Cairo (old WinNT).
Perhaps elements of what Powerset is doing can actually benefit the other work on web search and some improvement can be made, but I doubt it will play that big weight for some time.