“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

It’s all about SEARCH

Posted by direwolff on August 3, 2006

On the heels of my last post about the lagging search engine innovation I feel compelled to also explain what was once the domain of application development tools is now becoming all about search tools as the true application development environment. When I first got involved with Readware back in the late 1990s, there were companies out there like Intelliseek, Eliyon Technologies, Stratify, H5 Technologies, Verity and Autonomy, all vying for that coveted top spot as general search tool for all applications. Well those days have long passed and when looking at this partial list of companies you begin to see that something interesting happened, they realized that there were big markets where success did not need to come from being “all things to all people”, but rather from focusing on an area that sufficiently lucrative that they could build a serious business around that specialization.

Intelliseek was acquired by BuzzMetrics and with the backing of Nielsen’s parent comapny, VNU, to form Nielsen Buzzmetrics. Per their site, here’s how the describe their offering:

With solid data-mining technology, superb research and Nielsen’s unrivaled experience in media measurement and client services, we help today’s companies, brands and business professionals better understand the influence and impact of Consumer-Generated Media on products, issues, reputation and image.

Boy, that’s a long way from a general search engine technology, but it’s not hard to see the impact that smart search technologies can have on solving the problem they’re tackling.

Eliyon Technologies changed their name to ZoomInfo and focused their technology at the people problem. Basically the ability to compile and make sense of people’s work history based on publicly available information on the Internet. In their words:

ZoomInfo, the premier summarization search engine, delivers fresh, comprehensive information on over 31 million business professionals and 2 million companies across virtually every industry […] ZoomInfo finds, understands and extracts information from millions of online sources such as Web sites, press releases, electronic news services and SEC filings and summarizes the information into a comprehensive format. Basically, ZoomInfo creates structure out of the chaos of the Web.

Stratify and H5 Technologies turned their attention to compliance and legal markets. Heck, I don’t even recognize Stratify‘s company description from what I once knew of them…here’s how they describe themselves today:

Stratify Legal Discovery™ Service is an ASP solution that combines a complete electronic discovery application with our leading-edge technology to enable attorneys to review, understand and process large document sets. Stratify is trusted by Amlaw 100 firms and Fortune 200 corporations in complex litigation, Second Requests and governmental investigations.

For H5 Technologies part they’re head on competitors to Stratify as you’ll see from their overview:

H5 provides outsourced document review and analysis services to Fortune 500 corporate counsel offices and AmLaw 200 law firms in high-stakes, document-intensive litigation, as well as in the context of strategic document retention and regulatory compliance.

Verity and Autonomy remained in the general enterprise search and categorization space and managed to go public, which helped them maintain their market positions there. Having said this, Verity was recently acquired by Autonomy and so the consolidation was testament to the challenges faced by any player trying to make a real business out of a general approach to search. Autonomy has however spent time exploring and deploying some vertical market solutions as it saw fit. One such example is in their bid to also play in the litigation and compliance space by spining-off a company called Aungate. Here’s how Aungate describes itself:

Aungate’s suite of products is setting the standard for Real Time Enterprise Governance by drawing on the wide spectrum of experience of a prestigious customer list, which includes world leading regulators and stock exchanges such as the US SEC and NYSE as well as premier banks, litigation support organisations and compliance publishers.

Google has also been trying to play in this more general enterprise search market with their Google Appliance, which in reality brings none of the advantages of Google’s novel discoveries to enterprise search since the dynamics of searching enterprise content are very different than those of searching for general content across the Internet. This also makes up a negligible (if not irrelevant) part of Google’s revenues. AdSense by contrast, is another very novel use of search technology for matching ads to content pages and represents the lion’s share of how Google generates its bazillion dollars in revenue today.

More recently I’ve run into some other companies that have also leveraged search in other interesting ways. First up in this category is a company called InQuira. Their summary tells it all:

There are two approaches to search technology in today’s enterprises. The dominant approach is to treat search as a commodity technology that enables end users to find information they need from published content. In other words, push the content to customers and provide them a search box so they can find what they need.

An alternative, customer-centric approach is to understand what your customers want to do, and deploy intelligent search technology to help them achieve their goals. There are two primary types of interactions customers have with companies — either they are researching information for a potential purchase decision, or they are seeking resolution to a problem. […]

[…] InQuira’s solutions apply Intelligent Search technology to the core business processes that enable companies to service their customers’ individual needs throughout the customer lifecycle. Applied to Marketing and Sales processes, companies accelerate sales cycles and personalize the marketing effort to the understood needs of the customer. Applied to Service and Support processes, InQuira’s customers reduce time to resolution and deflect service requests from the most costly channels.

Tailrank, another company that I’m involved with, puts their proposition succintly:

Tailrank is a memetracker which finds the hottest posts from thousands of blogs so you don’t have to!

Basically, Tailrank goes out there and leverages its secret sauce to determine what memes (“meme” definition: an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.) are evolving in the blogosphere and in the mainstream media. There is much novelty in its search methodology. Another memetracker is Memeorandum which uses perhaps a slightly less automated process but also focuses on this space.

These are but a small sample of the types of applications that are leveraging search under the covers and its exciting to see that we have only scraped the surface of what search will enable in the future. With this there are also some scary applications too, but given the upbeat nature of this post I’ll stay away from those here and deal with them in one of my future privacy and security rants instead.

Long live SEARCH!

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