Google is great but not perfect. I am not going to list the problems here, but here is one try at a solution - there are others out there. I don't like this particular solution, because it somehow uses the preferences of my social network as a way of ordering my search results. If I just use the information everyone else has, I am creating an incorrect virtual reality for myself. Besides, what if I am researching a topic the people in my social networking know nothing about?
Search made easy with a little help from your friends
By David Shamah
By David Shamah
November 03, 2008
You're not your mom, or your dad, grandma, or great aunt. Your interests and experiences are different. Your world is different. What you're looking for in life - and on the Internet - is not the same as what they're looking for. Yet when you plug a term into a major Internet search engine, you get the same results your grandma does. And it's up to you to sort out the results, to find the information you really need.
Unless you use the new Israel-developed Delver search engine, says Delver CEO Liad Agmon. "Instead of giving you the general search results you get with Google, which you then have to ferret through, Delver gives you tailor-made search results that are much more likely to give you the information you're looking for," he tells ISRAEL21c.
It's not that Herzliya-based Delver has developed a mind-reading computer that can figure out what you're really after when conducting an Internet search. Instead, Delver leverages your web presence - using the information it gleans from your social networking accounts, like Facebook and MySpace - to get a picture of your online personality, the better to rank search results in a manner that makes sense to you.
One search doesn't fit all
It's certainly a different approach from the one-search-fits-all approach used by just about every other search engine. While Google does offer a number of tricks that lets you narrow down the results you get back for a query - such as structuring a search using specific syntax - most users aren't going to use search terms like "intitle" or "inurl" to narrow down their results. And without heavy use of modifiers, Google will often send back tens of thousands of results in basic and general searches.
To help you get the information you're after, Delver relies on a heretofore-untapped source to figure out what you're most interested in - your friends. When you sign up for Delver, you list the social networks you're a member of, and when you conduct a search, Delver returns the results based on what the people you associate online like and know.
This works great, says Agmon, when you're seeking information that contacts - or contacts of your contacts - have information about. "I recently had to take a business trip to a new city and was looking for a good hotel," Agmon says. "By using Delver, I was able to get details of the experiences of other travelers to this city, and much more easily make an intelligent decision on which hotel to stay at, with the best price." The more active you are in social networks (Delver supports all of the more popular ones), the more information you can mine from Delver.
Using other search engines, "an elderly person in Colorado and a teenager in Tel Aviv will get the exact same results when doing searching, for example, for 'London shows,'" says Agmon. "But it's probably safe to say that both users are not looking for the same kinds of shows." Using the social network profiles either or both of them may have, Delver can give users more precise results, he says. "Delver isn't just search - it's qualified search, with the results vetted by your social network, ensuring you can more easily and quickly find the information you're most interested in."
Using social networks to deliver
All the information returned by Delver is already "out there" on the open Web, says Agmon - gathered by search agents that scour the Internet and index information, just like Google, Yahoo, and all the others do (Delver does not rely on Google for its results, and has its own search system, says Agmon).
"The only thing we are doing is qualifying the results based on a profile we build using your social network," which you give Delver access to. "So no private information is ever given out or even searched by Delver." And Delver isn't just indexing information - it can help you more easily find media, including music and video, geared to your tastes. "Eventually, we hope to be the search engine of choice for users," says Agmon.
Delver began a private beta in February, and went public in July - and while Agmon says the company could not release specific information on the number of users, he does say: "We've been quite surprised at how quickly Delver has taken off and how many people use it on a regular basis." He adds that the service has garnered significantly more traffic than company executives had expected at this stage.
This past July was significant not just for the public emergence of Delver, but also for the fact that it was the start of one of the most severe credit crunches in recent years, seemingly a bad time for startups like Delver to be seeking out money.
But Agmon is optimistic. If you've got the goods, investors will take a risk, because they believe their investment will pay off. "While getting VC money when everyone believes a recession is imminent is tougher, there are positive aspects to a downturn - it's when the nonsense ideas get ferreted out, leaving the winner ideas an open field," says Agmon. "This is the right time for companies with better ideas. Delver is in it for the long haul, and we've got a great idea - one that billions of people around the world could significantly benefit from."