have software agents declined?

Have efforts toward developing effective software agents declined?

During the 1990s, it seemed as if "personal assistants", "intelligent agents", "bot", - whatever you want to call them - were poised to take over the Internet.

For what it's worth, Wikipedia does a fine job of defining what an "agent" is - or rather, what is not an agent.

Looking at a reference search site, such as Google Scholar, shows thousands and thousands of research papers from one PhD candidate or another who proposes a scheme or an architecture for agent-based simulation, etc. Given such a wealth of plans, where are the commercial successes?

Yet, looking at some of the sites which catalog work on agents, such as UMBC AgentWeb or BotSpot, it seems as if new items tapered off after the year 2000.

What happened? My hunch is that several things happened at once...

  • Circa 1997, Pattie Maes and company at MIT Media Lab emphasized having "agent" technology embedded within online communities, with the success of Firefly.

  • Circa 2000, the Internet "bubble" burst, but the successful examples among the so-called Web 2.0 firms - such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, Amazon, eBay - leveraged the notion of agency and personalization with their browser-based features and web services.

So far, no nascent "H.A.L." has emerged to handle searches better than Google - at least not for most people. Even so, circa 2006, are there "intelligent agents" on the horizon? Our firm wants to understand this issue better, so we asked the question on Google Answers.

What do you think?

tags: agents

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