Web Discovery: The Next Wave in Web Search

12 10 2007

Google remains the undisputed heavyweight champion of Internet search technology but the tech giant may require some tweeking to stay relevant in the long run. People are beginning to shift away from key word searches in favor of “discovery search” – engines that offer a bit more scope than a list of sites with the key word in them. 

The New York Times discussed the phenomenon in a recent feature on StumbleUpon, a social media site that allows people to share sites they find interesting.

 Say you are a soccer fan, but you are neither in the market for new cleats nor in search of the buzz on Greg Ryan, the coach of the United States women’s team. Instead, you just want to see interesting soccer sites. Googling “interesting soccer” or “great soccer stuff” is not likely to be satisfying.

A Web service called StumbleUpon has spent the last six years trying to satisfy such a need, perfecting a formula to help you discover content you are likely to find interesting. You tell the service about your professional interests or your hobbies, and it serves up sites to match them. As you “stumble” from site to site, you will feel as if you are channel-surfing the Internet, or rather, a corner of the Internet that is most relevant to you.

The article describes discovery search as “niche activity” but pointed out that StumbleUpon has grown from 600,000 registered users to 3.5 million in the past two years, suggesting that the concept is beginning to take off.

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