Google vs Teoma

WSJ (Lee Gomes) writes that Teoma is in the race to give Google a run for its money with its ability to provide links to “communities” associated with the search. Teoma is owned by AskJeeves. Some background:

In the Web’s early days, if you wanted to know about “mortgages,” the first generation of search engines would show you pages with references to the term. But, as porn sites quickly discovered, this approach is easily fooled, say by putting “mortgage” somewhere — or dozens of times — on your page.

Then, Jon Kleinberg, a Cornell University computer scientist, realized a better approach would be to forget about the contents of a page and concentrate instead on the people linking to it. It’s known as “link analysis,” as opposed to the earlier “text analysis.” Prof. Kleinberg ran an IBM research project that tried to write software that would find the Web “communities” around a particular topic, like mortgages. You’d then go to that community, and see what sites it thought were best. A good idea, but the IBM crew couldn’t figure out how to do it fast enough.

Enter Google, which in the late 1990s came up with its own variation of link analysis. Google’s soon-to-be-famous “Page Ranking” system listed Web sites by their popularity, on the assumption that the best sites were those with the most people linking to them. It was slightly different from what IBM was trying because with Google, everyone, in effect, had a shot at voting at the best page, rather than a presumed “community of experts.” It worked, and Google quickly became the No. 1 search engine. It holds that position today for many reasons besides its technology, like its clean design.

Lately, the Google folks have been downplaying the page-ranking system in describing their advantages — if only because everyone else is now doing it. In fact, all search engines nowadays take many things into account when deciding how to list the pages in response to a query.

A second story on search engines in WSJ is about how some smart companies capitalised on the power outage and created ads quickly to show up when people did searches for words like “black out” and “power outage”, and started attracting traffic within minutes for a cost-per-clickthough as low as five cents. The self-service and “instant-on” capabilities of search engines means that one now can capitalise on any major news event.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.