Semanti, which makes a Firefox browser add-on that augments search results from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Bing, is looking to help users bridge the gap between search engines and the Facebook social network, which boasts more than 200 million users.
The tool is a step in solving the problem of trying to find information based on what social network friends like and suggest instead of some randomized search results returned by Google, Microsoft and Yahoo search algorithms.
The startup June 23 has added the capability to let users leverage its semantic search tool in conjunction with the Facebook Connect service to share more relevant, socially driven information. The free plug-in sits in users' Firefox browsers as a toolbar, waiting to turn Google, Microsoft Bing and Yahoo Search into social recommendation engines.
How does it work? When a user installs Semanti and does a search, the Semanti MyWeb tool lets them personalize search results by clicking on a button to save Web page results. MyWeb stores the entire page's text along with the user's search terms.
This tool remembers the search queries a user entered so the next time a user searches for something comparable, the Web page will show up in the Semanti results. This will work for not just the searcher who entered the results, but for anyone doing searches in the future. Think of it as a virtual bookmark of sorts. When the user searches for the page again, they can find it using Google, Yahoo or Microsoft Bing.
The Semanti tool searches the text on the user's saved pages as well as the search terms originally used to find those pages and then displays matching results above the usual search engine results. Since the Semanti add-on saves the pages online, users can access pages from any computer without having to worry about whether or not their saved Web pages are on that computer.
Starting today, users can download the plug-in and invite Facebook friends to use Semanti as well. Then, using Google, Microsoft Bing and Yahoo search engines, friends search and click on links they find relevant to their inquiries. When a user conducts a search based on a specific topic, their friends' results and recommendations appear at the top of their search engine results marked as being endorsed by their Facebook friends.
For example, Semanti said that a user searching for a new restaurant will benefit from seeing which restaurants their Facebook friends have researched and saved. The idea is that a restaurant recommended by a friend has far more relevance to an individual than one that shows up in a general Web search.
Where do the semantic search methods come in? While semantic search methodologies typically rely on natural language search, Semanti's Suggest software helps users specify the exact meaning of their search terms via a drop-down menu.
With Suggest, users get results that match what they mean rather than what they say. So, users entering the query "shop" may well see the words "store and "retailer" in the drop-down menu as alternative results.
When a user finds a result he or she likes, the person then clicks on a button to save the page, marking it as relevant. This enables users to benefit from crowdsourcing because each approved Web page becomes available to the Semanti community.
Though the Semanti plug-in is free, Semanti CEO Bruce Johnson said he hoped to make money through placing ads alongside Semanti results.