I’ve spent a bit of time in the past few weeks getting to know FAST Search and Transfer, the company that, prior to my recent conversations, I best knew as “that Norwegian company that sold alltheweb.com to Overture.”
As I wrote in my book and elsewhere on this site, I’ve not exactly been a huge fan of enterprise search. Save my long diversion into WebFountain, I’ve pretty much focused on the consumer space. SEW’s Gary Price, on the other hand, has been declaring the importance of enterprise search, and in particular FAST, for a long time.
So when the folks at FAST called me and asked if I’d speak to them about their new products, and perhaps even come to their conference next month and give a talk, I thought it was high time I listened. I accepted their invitation and I spent some time on the phone with them recently. The result: I got smarter about FAST, and we also agreed to a partnership: FAST is marketing its event through my publishing company FM. I’m pleased that FAST is offering a discount to its conference for Searchblog readers – of nearly 30%, no less – because of that partnership. (I mention this because it’s my policy to disclose any dealings I might have with companies in Searchblog’s space. They are few and far between, and if they do happen, they happen because I personally believe in the quality of the company I’m working with, and on the condition that I disclose them here.)
I’ll write up my thoughts in more detail after the conference, but I did come away from my initial talks with FAST’s CTO and other executives convinced that many of the more difficult problems of search – user interface, for example, or structured data search – are being attacked in interesting ways in the enterprise. And I realized that my definition of enterprise search was too narrow – as consumers, we touch it every day.
The conference will be addressing many of these issues, focusing on real world examples. And there are tons of them. If you accept the premise that search is becoming the de facto navigational interface to the web, enterprise search picks up where Google et al leave off – once you get to a site like Career Builder, or The New York Times, or Dell, or hundreds of others – a company like FAST takes over. In other words, it’s not just for intranets anymore, and enterprise search has much to teach us about where giants like Google and Yahoo might be headed next.