Artiklz is debuting its conversation search engine to the public today, and it’s definitely worth taking a look. What the service does is aggregate comments from the more popular blogging and commenting platforms as well as a number of services including Digg, Reddit, FriendFeed, Delicious, etc. and make them available through a single search engine.

This is very similar to what companies like Crunchies finalist BackType and also uberVU are all about, and I definitely see the need for this type of service: regardless of one’s interests or line of work, dedicated comment search engines make it easy for users to find out what the content and tone of conversations across social media really are. I like the fact that you no longer need to visit every web service that has comments separately in order to find out what’s being said, but that you can go to a single place, do a simple search and find out.

Artiklz also helps center discussion about your blog posts in one location, enabling you to get notifications by e-mail, SMS, IM or a web interface, whenever a new comment is made about your writings on any given service. You can also add a badge to your blog that gives your readers the option to be notified when you post a new article, or when somebody leaves a comment on a given post, and you can even track a specific individual’s comments.


Categorized in Search Engine

It turns out those rumors last week were accurate. Microblogging site Twitter has acquired the Summize search engine, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams confirmed to me. The size of the transaction is not being disclosed, although the transaction price was paid “mostly in stock.”

Twitter has also hired 5 of the 6 Summize employees. Founder and CEO Jay Verdy will move on to a new project.

The five Summize employees joining Twitter are all engineers, adding to the twelve engineers that currently work at Twitter. Summize CTO Greg Pass will become Twitter’s top tech guy as Director of Engineering and Ops.

The deal has been discussed for some time, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams told me earlier. The companies had a term sheet in place when Twitter partnered with Summize in June to help them keep the Twitter platform stable during the Apple iPhone 3G Steve Jobs keynote. The deal was closed in the last week.

John Borthwick, a partner at Summize investor Betaworks, was also an investor in Pyra Labs (Blogger.com), which Evan Williams co-founded in 1999. In other words, the companies were already kissing cousins.

I spoke with Williams over the weekend at Foo Camp about the transaction and other Twitter issues. The video is below. We’ll post a full transcript later today.


Categorized in Search Engine

Cambridge, UK-based True Knowledge released its natural language search engine into private beta yesterday (a story broken by TechCrunchUK).

Like the much-anticipated Powerset, the company aims to give appropriate answers to natural language queries, even if key query terms are not included in the data being indexed. Current search engines are unable to return appropriate results for these queries.

At first glance True Knowledge and Powerset are competitors – but in fact they really aren’t. Powerset is both indexing the web and working to convert natural language queries into database-understandable queries. True Knowledge is only tackling half the problem – the conversion of queries. They are not indexing the web.

Instead, True Knowledge is grabbing data from structured databases, like, for example, the CIA Factbook. In many ways, they are more comparable with Freebase, a startup focused on gathering all the structured data on the web.

The engine certainly looks like it will be useful, though. Results can be returned based on inference of the intended meaning. So a question about if someone is married or not can be answered even if there is no specific structured data about that question. See the demo video to get a better idea of what it is capable of:

showplayer%2Eswf You can also see a number of screen shots with sample queries and results here.

The company has raised “more than” £600,000 from Octopus Ventures. As an interesting aside, founder William Tunstall-Pedoe is good friends with Powerset founder Barney Pell. Both studied at Cambridge together, says Pell, who describes True Knowledge as “cool stuff.”Via Go2Web2.


Categorized in Search Engine

Yandex, Russia’s leading search engine which is thought to be mulling over an IPO for up to $1.5 billion, is rolling out a new feature today that aims to make its search experience seem a lot more intelligent.

Dubbed “Spectrum” and claiming to be able to read users’ minds, it uses what sounds like a combination of semantic technology and machine learning to “infer implicit queries and return matching search results.” In other words, Spectrum is able to make better sense of the meaning of searches based on its own classification system.

It’s based on what Yandex describes as query statistics:

The system analyses users’ searches and identifies objects like personal names, films or cars. Each object is then classified into one or more categories, e.g. ‘film’, ‘car’, ‘medicine’. For each category there is a range of search intents. [For example] the ‘product’ category will have search intents such as buy something or read customer reviews.

So we have a degree of natural language processing, taxonomy, all tied into “intent”, which sounds like a very good recipe for highly efficient advertising.

But what if a search query has many potential meanings? Yandex says that Spectrum is able to choose the category and the range of potential user intents for each query to match a user’s expectations as close as possible. It does this by looking at historic search patterns. If the majority of users searching for “gone with the wind” expect to find a film, the majority of search results will be about the film, not the book.

“As users’ interests and intents tend to change, the system performs query analysis several times a week”, says Yandex. This amounts to Spectrum analysing about five billion search queries.

Earlier this month we reported on how Yandex was also getting smarter through partnering with VKontakte, which is the largest social network in Russia. Under the arrangement, the public-facing elements of VKontakte user profiles will show up in Yandex searches in realtime, essentially creating a people search engine since results, where publicly available, will link to and/or display a person’s date of birth, place of birth, university or place of work.


Categorized in Search Engine

Just the facts, ma’am. That’s the premise behind Factery Labs, a service that scours through web content to pull out just the factual bits of information, allowing you to get the gist of an article in seconds (at least, in theory). The company first launched in November with a tech demo and API for developers to tap into. And today, it’s launching a consumer facing fact search engine at FacteryLabs.com.

The site has a spartan interface that I wouldn’t classify as good looking, but it gets the job done. When you first visit Factery Labs, you’ll see a series of widgets, each presenting facts about the current hottest trends (trends are based on trending topics from Twitter). At the top of the page, you’ll find other topics, including Sports, Entertainment, World, Politics, and Technology. Each of these topics is pre-loaded with a handful of popular queries, like “Apple” and “Tablet” in the case of Tech. Each fact consists of a line or two of information, followed by a link to its source, a ‘more’ button that lets you read the fact in context, and a share button so that you can send it to friends.

Of course, the deciding factor in Factery Labs’ success will likely be how well their technology actually works. In my experience, it seems to work decently well, but has some very hit-or-miss results. A query for ‘Avatar’ made it easy to find out how much the film grossed from its initial midnight showings, but didn’t include its overall gross thus far (oddly, this fact was included when an ‘Avatar’ query was run from the site’s Entertainment section). A search for “Super Bowl” correctly returned the teams playing (Saints vs. Colts) , where they’re playing (Tampa actually it got this wrong. Last year’s Super Bowl was in Tampa, this year’s in in Miami), and some other factoids. But the system also determined that ‘Saints’ was a trending topic, which resulted in facts about “individuals of exceptional holiness”. A query for “James Bond” worked pretty well, yielding some information about creator Ian Fleming, the date of Bond’s first novel, and some background on the famous James Bond theme song, but there weren’t many other facts related to the films.

Factery Labs clearly still needs a lot of work on its algorithms, but there’s some promise. That said, I still think the service’s real potential lies in integration with Twitter clients and popular link sharing sites. I’m not eager to start using a new search engine, but if this could help me use the sites I’m already visiting more efficiently, I’d be a big fan.


Categorized in Search Engine

There are so many information portals on the web for health information, it can be tough to decipher which one is the best resource to answer a medical question. NetBase Solutions has launched healthBase, a powerful semantic search engine that aggregates medical content from millions of authoritative health sites including WebMD, Wikipedia, PubMed, and the Mayo Clinic’s health site.

HealthBase uses NetBase’s proprietary search intelligence technology to read sentences inside documents and linguistically understand the meaning of the content. Thus, healthBase’s search engine can automatically find treatments for any health condition or disease; the pros and cons of any treatment, medication and food, and more.

The search engine’s results are impressive. When you type in a search for the available treatments for diabetes, you are given results that are broken down by 63 drugs and medications used to treat the disease, 70 common treatments for diabetes, and 20 appropriate food and plants for the treatment of diabetes. You can also see the pros and cons of certain treatments. Search results appear disarmingly fast and will take you to the appropriate site where the content and information is hosted.

There’s no doubt that this is a useful site to tap into the vast variety of health information there is on the web, but I find the site to be slightly impersonal. Medical information, which can be daunting and sterile, is sometimes best served with a human touch on the web, especially when it comes to consumer knowledge. Medpedia is a good example of a site that contains a large amount of content that also has a social element.

But healthBase serves a valid purpose as an aggregator of medical content and will surely help those looking for a comprehensive research tool. Parent company NetBase won’t serve advertising on the site but monetizes its technology by powering internal search engines for companies that have large databases of content. Healthbase is a public demonstration of its technology.


Categorized in Search Engine

PreviewSeek is a new London-based search engine created by Chris Hong that is very quietly impressing people with a number of innovating features.


Basic search results are great but nothing to get overly excited about. The useful features include disambiguation of queries (are you searching for “apple” the fruit, or “apple” the computer”?), preview of search pages (think Browster), and better refining of searches.


Understanding Your Query


PreviewSeek does a good job at attempting to determine meaning from a query. Type in “Java” and you get a result set with a numer of options for the query, including the island, the programming language, and even the coffee.


Preview Results


This is my favorite feature. PreviewSeek allows you to preview search results in much the same way as Browster (our profile), except without the download and the ads. It’s a great way quickly scan results without actually clicking away from previewseek.


Search Refinement


For any given query PreviewSeek will suggest a number of refinement options on the left sidebar, which greatly assist in drilling down on a particular search.




Categorized in Search Engine

Ha! Hold on. Let me walk around a little, calm down. Ummm… so Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray, the guy who was right about the iPad because he wouldn’t shut up about it for most of the last five years, is saying there’s a “70% chance” that Apple will build a search engine. Barring thought that Apple needs to run a search engine like a fish needs to run a bicycle factory, let’s look at what he’s saying (via BusinessInsider)

We believe Apple could utilize data unavailable to Google, data generated by the company’s App Store, to create a mobile centric search engine, which would be a unique offering to Google’s search engine.

An iPhone specific search engine could be a difficult undertaking, but we feel Apple could make a minor acquisition of a search company that has built a web index, like a Cuil, and utilize the index as the base for building its own engine.

We believe the odds of Apple developing a search engine in the next five years are 70%. One hurdle for Apple in developing its own search engine would be generating enough advertiser interest to form a competitive marketplace; however, we believe the rationale for an Apple search product is to protect data rather than generate profit.

While I rarely enjoy point-by-point takedowns, I’m feeling rather frisky on this one. Let’s begin:

1. We believe Apple could utilize data unavailable to Google, data generated by the company’s App Store, to create a mobile centric search engine. – So this would search for popular Apps? Is that a “search engine” or a Genius system for apps. I suspect the latter. Maybe Gene didn’t get the the right term when he checked his Webster’s Dictionary of Computer Terms he bought in college.

2. we feel Apple could make a minor acquisition of a search company that has built a web index, like a Cuil – Remember Cuil? Well no one else does. Apparently someone mentioned Cuil at Munster’s bridge club tournament after reading about it an an old 2008 issue of Fast Company they found in the dentist’s office and it stuck. Someone could have said AltaVista and the same thing could have happened.

3. One hurdle for Apple in developing its own search engine would be generating enough advertiser interest – Because who wouldn’t want to work arm-in-arm a distant, far-from-mainstream search contender dedicated to sifting the ether for data on Hot Tub Time Machine soundboards?

4. we believe the rationale for an Apple search product is to protect data rather than generate profit. – Now this one is rich. Apparently Smith & Wollensky had two-for-one martini night and Munster’s dining partner – the one who probably planted this seed in the first place – apparently partook. “Protect data rather than generate profit” sounds exactly like something Apple would do. After all, they’re in the business of making things better for all of us. If you haven’t visited the Apple Health Centers where they can cure future brain embolisms by bathing you in purple light, you’re missing out. Just don’t take their flu vaccine.

I hate to single anyone out – we all make crazy proclamations, especially when we’re hopped up on Skittles and chocolate milk (not naming names) – but WTF? This is more egregious than usual, friends. Analysts know little more than we do, and that’s not saying much.


Categorized in Search Engine

Microsoft is introducing some of its Cortana personal assistant smarts to its desktop search engine, with a new feature rolling out today that will use your previous query to inform your next, providing it with key contextual information so that you can search more conversationally, in the same way you’d ask follow-up questions of a friend during a regular chat.

So, if you’re searching for a specific actor, maybe by asking who played Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy, Bing will not only provide you with Chris Pratt’s name directly in results, but you can ask follow-up questions, like “Who is his wife?” or “How old is he?” and the search engine will provide those answers directly about the subject of the prior search, once again in the results page directly.

These are features that Microsoft is rolling out now, so users in the U.S. at least should have access to it. You can continue asking questions without having to name the subject of the search, too, so it really does become like a fairly lengthy conversation over time.

Microsoft’s efforts in bringing more contextual smarts to Bing are admirable, since it brings us closer to the day we can interact with our computing devices in ways more similar to the habits we have in interacting with the world in general. This should make it easier and faster to string queries together and find simple answers to simple questions, and eventually, it could make it possible for search engines and other computing software to engage in even complex conversations with end users.


Categorized in Search Engine

We’re frequently told Brits don’t care a fig-leaf for online privacy. But one London-based startup is about to test that theory — it’s just launched an anonymous search engine, called Oscobo, initially serving up search results specifically for the U.K. market. (Although the intention is to scale the model to other European markets in time too.)

The founders are starting with the U.K. because they reckon Brits do care about not being snooped on online — certainly once they are made aware of how much tracking is being done in the background by dominant search engines like Google. And if offered an easy to use alternative, which is where they’re hoping Oscobo will come in.

Think of it as a DuckDuckGo that serves up U.K.-specific results by default…


One of the two co-founders, Fred Cornell, used to work at Yahoo, so has seen the evolution of the search and online ad industry up close. “I worked for Yahoo for over 12 years and I really like Yahoo but I saw first hand how the industry tracks users, uses personal data, keeps pushing harder to make even more money from harvesting more of the data,” he tells TechCrunch.

“Search engines, ad exchanges, advertisers, publishers, data traders, everyone’s at it. And I became uncomfortable with the whole scene and decided I wanted to provide an alternative and a better deal for users who are concerned with online privacy.”

Go back more than a decade and Cornell argues there used to be a fair ‘social contract’ in place between the web user and the online advertisers and publishers. But in recent years he says that balance — i.e. of looking at an ad and getting to view some free content — has become hugely skewed, with far more personal data being harvested than can be justified. (And of course he’s not the only one saying as much.)

“Over the last — particularly the last five, six years, with the rise of ad exchanges and data harvesting — I think that that social contract is in breach… more personal data is being collected than is actually needed and the user has very little say in this,” he says, adding: “People are starting to become concerned about what happens with their personal data, how is it being used and so on.”

He points to huge growth in the privacy search segment, outstripping the overall rate of growth in search (a $62.5 billion global market last year), as another encouraging factor. Last summer, for instance, DuckDuckGo said it had grown 600 per cent over the past two years in the wake of the Snowden revelations about government mass surveillance programs.

Also on the rise in recent years: ad blocking — a technology increasingly associated with the privacy/anti-tracking movement, not just with pure-play ad-blocking. Last year Apple also threw its weight behind the online privacy cause very publicly. And where Cupertino walks others are bound to follow.

“We think that this is right on time to do something like this,” says Cornell.

“We’ve been following DuckDuckGo in the States and we’ve realized that via education they’ve managed to grow the traffic… They have really validated this marketplace,” adds co-founder Rob Perin, who used to work at BlackBerry. “The U.K. marketplace is a very ethical marketplace, I think people do believe very much in their rights.”

Oscobo is licensing its search index from Bing/Yahoo so does not have any semantic search tech of its own. Unlike European rival Hulbee, a Swiss tech company, which last year launched its own pro-privacy consumer search engine in Europe — and raised a bunch of money — another sign of growing interest in non-profiling consumer search.

Licensing its search index from companies that have already spent billions on competing with Google does at least mean Oscobo is sidestepping the problem of trying to compete head on with Google’s tech. On the advertiser side, they also have a deal in place with Yahoo’s ad marketplace — doubtless leveraging Cornell’s industry connections there.

So what’s the business model? How is Oscobo planning to make money if it’s not being evil tracking and data mining its users a la the Google goliath?

Its model is simple paid search, based on bare-bones search data (i.e. whatever string a user is searching for) and their location — given the product is serving the U.K. market this is assumed to be the U.K., but whatever search string they input may further flesh out a more specific location.

“We think it’s a bit of a myth that you need to track users, store IPs and profile them and cookie them to make money for paid search. What the advertiser is paying for is the intent behind someone typing in a keyword… So we still think that there’s a lot of money to be made in paid search without having to keep IPs and profile users and keep track of them wherever they go, offline or online or with mobile phones and so on,” says Perin. “We essentially throw the IP address away straight away, we don’t even log it. We don’t drop any cookies.”

How much money? Oscobo says the privacy segment of the search market was worth about 0.1% in 2014 but reckons it will grow to between 0.5 to 0.7% this year (a projected growth rate of 200% to 300% year-on-year). Which may not sound like much but the overall search market is forecast to be worth $71.8 billion this year so you can see why they’re keen to cut themselves a very small slice of that.

“We’ve got a proven business model. This generates revenue — it’s a very simple model. It’s advertiser driven. So we’re not here to grow the community and milk it later. We should be financially viable from day one,” says Cornell.

“Google have other objectives [than search]. We are forfeiting [user profiling] data to prove a pure and open service where the social contract is you come to our site, the first two links you get will be sponsored ads. If you choose to click on them it’s fair enough there’s an agreement there. If you don’t we don’t look to see where you go afterwards and when you turn on your mobile phone.”

“In terms of targeting there is a very well defined marketplace for U.K. ads for Yahoo and Bing, and that’s for the U.K., the marketplace we tap into, and then we target the keyword,” adds Perin.

The startup is privately funded at this point, including by the co-founders. Depending on how quickly they intend to scale — by launching horizontal pro-privacy products for other European markets — they say they might seek to raise additional funding.

“This year we have a roadmap. We will be rolling out into other countries. We will be providing country-specific search in those countries. For the time being we’re focusing our attention on the U.K., and as it does expand of course we’ll be open to investors,” says Cornell. “Our challenge in Europe different to DuckDuckGo is they have one big market in the U.S. America’s always lucky to have that. We go cross culture. So we’d have to have this conversation in German and Italian and Spanish and whatever.”


Categorized in Search Engine

airs logo

Association of Internet Research Specialists is the world's leading community for the Internet Research Specialist and provide a Unified Platform that delivers, Education, Training and Certification for Online Research.

Get Exclusive Research Tips in Your Inbox

Receive Great tips via email, enter your email to Subscribe.

Follow Us on Social Media