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Many times when i am searching for information on complex or obscure information I find myself needing to use a number of keywords to help narrow my search. The problem is that these keywords, when used directly with each other, hold one meaning, but also may appear widely separated within a document.
This results in a lot of search hits which have all the keywords but really have nothing to do with what I am searching for.
For example if you wanted to learn about stalling of a subaru while cold, you will end up with innumerable archives and parts sites that have all of these words but none of them appear together in a single entry, comment or question.
I propose a search parameter that would let you specify the "Proximity" of the words you have searched for, so you might enter "30" at which point the search engine will first find pages on which all your keywords appear and then filter those pages and show only those pages in which the keywords all appear within a single block of 30 words but does not define the order or relation ship of the words to each other, only their proximity to one another.
...suggests that AOL used to do what you want. (Now they use the Google engine, which only does implicit proxiimity searching.) [DrCurry, Jan 17 2008]
Both ideas need a good semantic web to link meanings. I looked at what was out there and can't find a reliable one :-/ [gtoal, Jan 17 2008]
Currently part of their "custom search engine" functionality [krelnik, Jan 17 2008]
||I've used systems where you can specify that one word be "near" another.
||I think AltaVista.com has/had a NEAR function.
||Google has been working on something that is not quite what you are asking for, but which might solve your underlying problem. They call the "refinements" and it is basically a way to group certain search results into categories. So for instance an online store versus a discussion forum, both of which might match the same query, can be brought to the top of the search. See my link, and be sure to click the links within to see it in action.
||I use a patent search database called QWEB which has this functionality. You can specify the proximity of keywords (e,g. within so many words, or within the same sentence).