Search Startups Take Up Arms to Challenge Giants
This week, three startups announced progress in their efforts to take on the big names in search in such areas as multimedia search, comparison shopping and advertising.
In multimedia, Blinkx Inc. introduced syndication feeds for its Blinkx.tv video and audio search. Using RSS, Blinkx is letting users create feeds out of their key word searches by tapping into the San Francisco startups growing number of video results drawn from such sites as CNN and Fox News.
Become.com Inc. has expanded its shopping search, launching a beta of its comparison-shopping engine that works in conjunction with its search engine for researching Web reviews and product information sites.
Meanwhile, a search startup out of Bill Gross Idealab, Snap.com, announced a $10 million round of funding, which will help fund its approach to search-based advertising called "cost per action." Gross also was behind Overture Services, which pioneered the pay-per-click model and is now owned by Yahoo Inc.
With its RSS-based service, called SmartFeed, Blinkx is doing more than giving users a way to receive multimedia search updates in feed readers. It also is opening access to the feeds to developers who want to integrate feeds into Web sites and applications, said Blinkx founder Suranga Chandratillake.
"The feed URL is an API into the Blinkx system," Chandratillake said. "If youre a developer or a site owner then you can build your own applications on top of the Blinkx service."
The major search engines, mainly Yahoo and Microsoft Corp.s MSN, also have begun adding the ability for users to subscribe to general search results via RSS.
Blinkxs service brings syndication to video and audio, but, for the most part, the feeds will point to the URLs of video or audio clips and not include the clips, Chandratillake said.
On the shopping search front, Mountain View, Calif.-based Become.com is betting that its pairing of research with product comparisons will stand out, even as such major online services as Google Inc. and MSN beef up their shopping sites.
"This is the integration of search technology with price comparison shopping," said Michael Yang, Become.coms CEO and founder.
With its comparison shopping feature, Become.com allows users to filter results by price, brand and category and to compare products across categories by adding results to a clipboard-like favorites section.
Become.com, which has 5 million products in its comparison-shopping index, draws those results from feeds with online merchants and receives revenue when a user purchases a product. For its research results, it separately crawls 3 billion Web pages, Yang said.
Snap.com, a Pasadena, Calif., search engine launched last year, is pushing a new concept in search-based advertising in which advertisers pay based on a desired action that generates revenue.
In typical pay-per-click ads such as those sold by Yahoo and Google, advertisers pay once a user clicks on a sponsored link or graphical ad. The pay-per-click model has battled a problem known as click fraud, where other advertisers and the publishing partners of the ad networks purposefully click links to hurt competitors or earn more revenue.
Snap.com parent company Perfect Market Technologies Inc. announced that venture-capital firm Mayfield, of Menlo Park, Calif., had led the latest round of funding. Along with helping Snap.com to pursue its ad model, the funding also will fund other product development and operations, the company said.
"While the industry has already experienced a fantastic run, innovations will further catalyze growth as search engine marketing delivers advertisers measurable and superior return on advertising dollars," Gross said in a statement. "Meanwhile, users expectations for relevant search results are becoming harder to meet with traditional search engines."
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