Sunday, November 13, 2005

Next Generation for Search: The Money is Flowing

This week, I had the opportunity to hear John Battelle,, author of The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture, at the local Silicon Valley SDForum Search SIG get-together at appropriately enough, the Microsoft campus in Mountain View, not far from the Google and Yahoo complexes. The auditorium was full, with a good segment of the audience working on vertical search businesses, many from Stanford Business School. John, on the other hand, is a visiting professor in the journalism school at UC, Berkeley, hence his commentary in this fireside chat format on the implications of search technology which he sees as still being formed. Perfect search, meaning an intelligent answer in context, does not exist today, and that is the frustration with the Web, and the challenge to the technologists.

Four companies from the next generation of search applications, aka vertical search, also known as Web 2.0 companies were then interviewed by John for their elevator speech, their business models (thin), and their competitive advantage against Google, which is the standard mantra in this business. All have launched recently, so their track records are untested. SimplyHired focuses on alleviating the pain of searching for a new job, using an integrated workflow approach which makes the entire process of finding a new position easier, including a goodly amount of humor (SimplyFired t-shirts for the audience). Trulia focuses on aggregating real estate listings from brokerages, and looks easier to use and navigate than any I've used. Healthline has developed a consumer oriented ontology for medical information, but has an unclear business model and understanding of their marketplace. Truveo looks like a promising technology company which has developed a Visual Crawler for video content, and then creates metadata which can then be searched. The technology is evolving fairly quickly, with Ajax technology and low costs to start Web businesses, but the lack of unique and premium content is striking. If content publishers begin to collaborate with the technologists, then there really will be opportunities to fulfill the promise of the "perfect search"!
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