Today I got a personal demo of the new searchme site from one of its backers, Mark Kvamme of Sequoia Capital. These are the guys who backed Yahoo and Google, so it was interesting to see how stoked Mark was about this new search player.
Mark and I were both speaking at the Ogilvy Verge conference, which is where this snapshot was taken, during a break, when Mark demo’d the new service to me live right before showing it to a few hundred marketers. The fellow next to him is Jean-Philippe Maheum, the Chief Digital Officer of Ogilvy North America.
As I’ve said many times before, I think there is a lot of innovation to be found in search interfaces, and searchme is clearly looking to lead in that field. To do so, however, they had to reinvent the crawl, as their UI innovation depends on categorization at the level of the crawl.
The interface is pretty much a direct imitation of the iPhone, an elegant Flex execution that’s fast and compelling. But does it have staying power? I am not sure. I look forward to using it more and seeing how it lasts. More from TechCrunch, which broke the story this morning….
4 thoughts on “SearchMe”
Uh, are they serious? I think of this site’s name when I wonder why Kvamme invested in this itunes album flow knockoff. (I am constantly amazed how much money is put towards search start-ups that lack a true transformative angle.) It does looks like a much nicer version of some of the other “visual” search engines. I remember Bill Gross’s Snap had a Flash version a year or so ago. It’s gone. Maybe they were too early. Google has also had a flash version at http://www.searchmash.com/flash for a long time. It is definitely different than (cough, cough) Searchme but I think the current Google will win for the time being as the results are better and we are all familiar with how the UI works. The combination of those two factors makes the “old fashion way” faster to find what one is looking for versus this eye candy.
Yes, there is lots of room for innovation in the manner in which search results are presented, and this interface does look compelling. But what’s most interesting here (to me anyway) is not the slick visual interface, but the deep integration of categorization.
A slick UI, on its own, isn’t going to get us beyond the limitations of keywords. Let’s face it: the current keyword-and-link-driven search delivers, at best, a mixed bag of results — “here are ten links which may or may not work for you, you figure it out from here.”
Scan through a typical set of search results from Google (or Yahoo! or Live, or …) and you see many different kinds of documents (articles, homepages, directories, …) with information about completely different domains and a wide variety of authority and quality as well. Unfortunately, this is as far as the “Bag of Words” approach and the inherent ambiguity of keywords can take us.
The addition of categorization (one can imagine multiple types of categorization that would be useful: domain, document type, authority, …) is interesting because it allows the user to express their intent with a far greater degree of precision. This greater degree of precision results in a much greater likelihood that the results delivered will meet the information need.
I haven’t played with SearchMe, so I don’t know how effective their solution is. But I like the direction.
Actually, SpaceTime is the inventor of 3D Visual Search on the internet. You can view it at http://www.spacetime.com and try the real product now that is available. Searchme is an attempt to mimick the patent-pending process that SpaceTime launched this year at CES. The nice thing about SpaceTime is that you can search Google, Yahoo, eBay, RSS, Amazon and Images. In Searchme, you really don’t know who is compiling the search results or how good they are. SpaceTime also delivers the ability to interact with your web pages whereas in Searchme, you are just looking at a photograph of a web page that is not the real thing.
The backing from Sequoia and publicity that searchme has got is a great validation of visual search and the interest people have in new interfaces. I think Google is way too conservative about innovation in this area, and that leaves the door wide open for startups.
As a founder of WebMynd I have to confess an interest here!
The only problem I see with Searchme is that they are going to find it hard to break the habit people have of automatically going to Google to find stuff. We think we have a solution to that particular problem by putting our results exactly where people expect them – on the Google results page… I wonder whether an exit to Google is exactly these guys’ strategy.