Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Quest for the 3rd Generation Search Engine Continues!

A few months ago New York Times probed a bunch of start-up search engines as possible way to go in beating Google's dominance on the search market. These days yet another influential media giant Newsweek seems to be going against Google. In a quest for the best search engine Newsweek, in a story titled "Searching For The Best Engine", claims a global effort is underway to invent a better way of finding things on the Web and asks the rhetorical question "Could Google be vulnerable?" .

Aside the French, German and Japan's governments pouring hundreds of millions in an effort to establish local search companies as well as the traditional Google rivals in the face of Microsoft, Yahoo and somehow, Newsweek seems to be focused on the so called 3rd generation or alternative search engines emerging upon us with innovative ideas, concepts and technologies promising to deliver better results than Google in one way or another.

In 2005 and 2006, venture-capital firms invested $350 million into 79 search-related start-ups. Knight, the author of's blog tracks no fewer than 1,000 search contenders, mostly U.S.-based, that have something to recommend the old guys in the sector.

The story mentions a number of innovative and highly promising start-up search engines, technologies and approaches as follows:

Hakia – Relies on natural language processing.

Wikia - The one the Wikipedia's founder stays behind.

Naver* - a South Korean search veteran, has been around for pretty much the last decade.

Quintura – A visual engine started out by Russians but now said to be based in Virginia.

NosyJoe – A Social search engine that employs intelligent tagging technologies and runs on a semantic platform.

Mahalo - Hard to say search engine it more looks like a directory with quality content handpicked by editors. Jason Calacanis is the one behind the company.

ChaCha – Real humans try to help you in your quest for information, via chat.

Powerset – Still in closed beta, well over-hyped and seems to be also relying on understanding the natural language.

Clusty* - founded in 2000 by three Carnegie Mellon University scientists.* - Today's #4 search engine immediately after Google, Yahoo and MS.

Lexxe - Sydney based engine featuring natural language processing technologies.

Accoona – What's interesting for the company is that they have recently filed for an IPO in US planning to raise $80M from the public.

KartOO – A French initiative entirely done in a flash, visual meta search engine.

KoolTorch – Seems to be yet another visual search engine, it is said to be also French one. Weak point could be that they don't use their own index and seem to be using the's results.

Squidoo – It has been started in October 2005 by Seth Godin and looks more like a wiki site, ala Wikia or Wikipedia where anyone creates articles on different topics.

Sproose – Appears to be also using third party search feeds; ranks the results based on the users' votes.

Trulia – A real estate search engine

Healthline - Enables you to plug in symptoms and track down possible causes and treatment, health search engines, a heavily competitive area where Microsoft is also playing a role in, among others

Globaspec – Searches for industrial information and is aimed at engineers. – Product search engine.

Spock – Focuses on people information, people search engine, and there are other competitors in the sector.

* Note that Naver is not a start-up search engine; it has been around for quite long time and is the lading search engine in South Korea . and are also among the old guys from the sector.

Very interesting fact is that right now all these underdog search engines are said to have a combined market share of less than 5 percent of all queries, which is an impressive number knowing that 1% of the search market is today valued at the staggering amount of more than $1B, according Don Dodge.

The story is scheduled to appear on the Nov 5, 2007 print issue of Newsweek.

Just like a few months ago when we covered the NYT's story today we again think that only the time will tell us who will be the big winner at the end of the day. On the other hand whatever the case is any of the above search engines may get acquired sooner or later for anything in the 8 digit range (excluding some of the major players from the list above which may hunt amounts down in the 9+ digit range), which, in our feeling, is the main goal of most of these start-ups.

On the contrary, many IT experts and professionals do believe that undermining Google is most likely a task that will not be accomplished by a search engine in our traditional understanding, but rather would come from a concept that is anything else but not a search engine. Such concepts, including but not limited to, are Wikipedia, and LinkedWords. In other words finding information on web doesn't necessarily mean to search for it.

Some more information on the topic:

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