In a traditional information retrieval system, it is assumed that queries can be posed about any topic. In reality, a large fraction of web queries are posed about a relatively small number of topics, like products, entertainment, current events, and so on. One way of exploiting this sort of regularity in web search is to build, from the information found on the web, comprehensive databases about specific topics. An appropriate interface to such a database can support complex structured queries which are impossible to answer with traditional topic-independent query methods. Here we discuss three case studies for this "data-centric" approach to web search. A common theme in this discussion is the need for very robust methods for finding relevant information, extracting data from pages, and integrating information taken from multiple sources, and the importance of statistical learning methods as a tool for creating such robust methods. 1 Introduction In a traditional information retri..
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