In this paper we give a synoptic view of the growth of the text processing technology of information extraction (IE) whose function is to extract information about a pre‐specified set of entities, relations or events from natural language texts and to record this information in structured representations called templates. Here we describe the nature of the IE task, review the history of the area from its origins in AI work in the 1960s and 70s till the present, discuss the techniques being used to carry out the task, describe application areas where IE systems are or are about to be at work, and conclude with a discussion of the challenges facing the area. What emerges is a picture of an exciting new text processing technology with a host of new applications, both on its own and in conjunction with other technologies, such as information retrieval, machine translation and data mining.
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