The New York Times ran an article (link here) discussing “sweeping” changes to the Big Two, Westlaw and Lexis, in the pipeline. Project Cobalt, (previously discussed here), is slated for February 1. Lexis’ drop date has not yet been disclosed.
The Times article is an interesting read on the history of these giants and their motivations for change. You see, people are sick of paying huge amounts for a mediocre, 1980’s interface and functionality. Go figure.
West reps told the Times that it took 5 years to build the new service. Oh no. Does that mean the service is already 5 years out of date? The article discusses relevancy by algorithm (second-guessing what the lawyer might actually be looking for) and a Google-like search interface. No mention of retaining Boolean search, though. Not 2010 enough, I suppose.
My jury remains out. It will reconvene on February 1.
Never able to let a mystery lie dormant, I spent some time this weekend digging into the dirt to find out about this West-branded next evolution in legal research. It’s code-named Cobalt and I managed to scare up a Thomson Reuters PowerPoint which hints at the features. It is fairly clear that Cobalt will offer a more Web 2.0 experience. Of course, its being billed as the best search engine for law and easy to use. It will promises “high velocity” results and research workflow optimization. What interests me is a vague reference to “community insights.” Is West going to offer its own social aspects within the research framework?
Although it is not certain, there is a suggestion that the preferred search format will be natural language. Some are opining that this means no more Boolean. I will wait and see on that point before I assume the worst. I am hoping West is smarter than Bing in that regard. There is also a suggestion in the press that it will learn from the community – perhaps this learning hints at a semantic aspect (woohoooo!).
There isn’t a lot more to say at this point, but I will definitely keep my eyes peeled for more info. My inner cynic is moving aside a little to make room for a new hope that West will bring its service up to par.