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Monday, October 23, 2006

URL: A Social Search Engine

URL is a social search engine where users can vote up or down a website. There isn't a set of criteria you have to use, just vote with your gut. One neat feature is that it shows the ranks of the search results from Google, Yahoo, and MSN. What's interesting is that it reveals how differently search engines rank results. Apparently, the three search engines only agree on the best search result 7% of the time. It definitely explains why I often use Google for search. Results tend to be better.

The ranking formula is pretty simple:

To decide what results are best, we consider:

  1. what each search engine says about a result
  2. what our community says about the result and
  3. what our community says about the search engine.
A more technical description is here. Notice Google is weighted most at 35%.

Along with other creative takes on search, URL is a promising addition to the search space. However, to truly be useful, users will need to be able to rate more than the top 10 search results. Otherwise, what's the point? It's easy to scan through the top 10 results, and it isn't likely that one website will be able to answer all of a user's questions so even if one page was rated number one by 99% of users, it would still be useful to look at other pages. There really isn't much room for improvement when you're constraining the search results to the top 10 of each search engine.

There simply isn't enough value-added when only the top 10 results can be ranked. In its current incarnation, URL isn't substantially better than a meta-search engine that just displayed the top 10 results for Google, Yahoo, and MSN. I do like that redundant results get combined into one search result so that in most cases the possible number of results is reduced from a maximum of 30 to something on the order of 15-25. To truly leverage the power of social search, however, the long tail of search results has to be taken into account.


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