Mathematical algorithms are the secret sauce behind top-line search engines, so some vendors who realize it's almost impossible to take market share from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft head-to-head are using human behavior to augment search results.
One start-up in this space is Lijit Networks, which offers a free software tool called a Search Widget that lets blog publishers share their knowledge and connections by linking to or tagging posts, bookmarks and blogrolls.
The idea is to give subscribers a search tool to retrieve content from their favorite blogs, as well as tap into the extended network each blog associates itself with via links or tags, without having to do horizontal searches on Google or Yahoo.
Lijit is plying its trade because user-generated content, which is highly distributed across social networks, blogs and forums, is hard to find with conventional Internet search that relies on site statistics and popularity.
Publishers who download the Lijit Search Widget on their blogs receive detailed statistics on how many readers view their content as well as statistics on the geographical location of searches. The Search Widget's stats utility is about helping bloggers better connect with the readers most inclined to read their content.
To further augment the software's utility, Lijit is buying BigSwerve Jan. 29 to let publishers search blog comments for additional content. BigSwerve's technology, which has indexed more than 400 million comments from more than 3 million blogs, will be added to the Search Widget to provide another measure of search usefulness.
"The holy grail for a [blog] is the comments space," CEO Todd Vernon told eWEEK before the deal was announced. "The BigSwerve acquisition gives us a whole new dimension of figuring out who's going where and who's influencing who."
While such technology is geared toward professional blog publishers, which run popular sites such as TechCrunch and Search Engine Land, there is a strong push afoot to make blogs, RSS feeds, wikis and mashups part of the enterprise fabric.
Forrester Research said in a report Jan. 28 that enterprise adoption of such Web 2.0 tools will be the norm as IT managers seek to ensure their knowledge workers are using business-sanctioned tools that provide appropriate measures of security.
Lijit, which plans to monetize its Search Widget with some form of online advertising this quarter, could eventually sell its Search Widget technology to enterprises that want to optimize their search and tagging capabilities, as well as view stats on content consumers.
Social search is also a popular theme at Demo 08 in Palm Desert, Calif., which started Jan. 28.
Start-up Circos ("I search," in Italian) will launch semantic search technology to address the user-generated content dilemma. Circos searches with descriptive terms, akin to asking for a personal recommendation, and the results receive letter grades for each criterion.
For example, if you are looking for a hip, clean hotel with a comfy bed, Circos will return hotels graded by "hip," "clean" and "comfy bed," according to a company statement.
Though targeted for the consumers now, social search will likely make its way into all search engines in a few years as people seek to give search a human feel.