Search firms hunt the next dotcom boom


Search firms hunt the next dotcom boom, by Mike Barton - 16th July 2004
(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)


The boom days of the internet are back, but this time it's not the content, but the means of finding it that is causing the excitement.

Search has become a billion-dollar business, as well as the buzz word defining the return of the internet economy. Telstra's Sensis this week became the latest to offer web search with a Google-like service that also looks up telephone numbers.

But this search battle is much bigger than just the web and phone numbers. Google, which plans a float later this year that is expected to place the company's value at $US20 billion ($27.7 billion), plans to take on Microsoft for ownership of the personal computer and perhaps even the digital lounge room.

Google leads as the most popular search engine, as well with innovative new search techniques such a personalised and localised search.

Its web-based email service, Gmail, will soon let general users store thousands of emails (up to one gigabyte) and find information within them.

"Google is becoming the operating system of the web, offering a [user interface] on top of the websites," said Jakob Nielsen, a web expert and principal of the Nielsen Norman consulting group.

But Google now wants to displace Microsoft on the computer desktop. Google's search toolbar, a plug-in to Microsoft's web browser, was the first nibble. Next came the Deskbar, which provides search from within Windows.

The latest, Browse By Name, released yesterday as part of an upgrade to its search toolbar, allows users to use real names instead of clunky web addresses. Enter "BBC News" and news.bbc.co.uk pops up in your browser; if there is no direct match, it performs a search for the words entered.

Google and Microsoft are working on unified engines that search the web and the computer, the centrepiece to the digital lounge room of the future. Not surprisingly, however, others want a slice of the action.

The latest search tool, Blinkx, has beat Google and Microsoft to market. Its dowloadable search tool not only searches the web but simultaneously scours news sites, emails, attachments and the files on your computer. It can also search digital TV on the internet.

The Blinkx website reportedly recorded 6 million links a day from word-of-mouth publicity before its official launch this week.

Blinkx uses cutting-edge search technology, deploying artificial intelligence, to rate stories. Blinkx's co-founder, Kathy Rittweger, told The Guardian: "What it is trying to say is that all words are not equal in a sentence ... Quite critically, if you are looking at a document and trying to figure out what it means, Blinkx reads everything you are reading and sorts out what are the key ideas."

And the battle for search on the web is far from complete. While Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo battle it out, a flurry of innovative upstarts are now joining in.

Charlene Li, principal analyst at the independent technology company Forrester Research, said: "[Although] it continues to be the most innovative search company out there, Google can't be everything to everyone."

Other companies have launched new-look engines with the promise of Google-like performance, including Teoma (from AskJeeves) and Wisenut (from LookSmart).

And different approaches to web searching are emerging. Mooter, an Australian company, uses artificial intelligence like Blinkx to "dynamically personalise your searching experience". Vivisimos's "Clustering Engine", for instance, sorts search results into categories, rather than one big list.

Links:

Websites - search

Google

Yahoo!

Blinkx

Wisenut

LookSmart

Mooter

Find Articles.com

Ask Jeeves - Ask.com

Websites - portals

Australian Sports Entertainment

National Library of Australia - Search the Internet

MSN

Microsoft

e-mail

Gmail

Hotmail

Yahoo! Mail

Articles

Sports and entertainment website reviews

Online advertising chases $300m - 20th May 2004

Mediaman

Search Engines

Website Reviews

Technology

Services