Vivisimo already offers a search service for corporate customers, which clusters results into categories to make them easier to sort through. Search “swift boat,” for example, and Vivisimo returns 149 results – listing them one by one, and also as a table of categories, like “Swift Boat Veterans,” “John Kerry” and “Patrol Craft Fast” on the left-hand side of the Web page.
The new Clusty service for consumers, which will be free and supported by advertising revenue, uses a similar organizational structure. But it also presents a series of tabs enabling the user to see results from sources besides the general Web, including shopping information, yellow pages, news, blogs, and images.
Vivisimo, which is privately held and is profitable, according to its executives, has been selling its clustering technology to corporations for research by their employees. Now Vivisimo is making an effort to compete more broadly by attracting consumers to its Web site, clusty.com.
The service is meant to address the confusion that can be created when search engines return huge lists. Clustering is also intended to help users find related material they may overlook when they employ services that utilize page ranking methods. Such methods employ a variety of software algorithms to rank Web pages by their perceived relevance to a query.
Many search experts say that clustering offers a better way of looking at information than Google’s page ranking system.
“As databases get larger, trying to pull the proverbial needle out of the haystack gets tougher and tougher,” said Gary Price, a librarian who is also the news editor at SearchEngineWatch, a Web site that covers the industry. “Here, you’re getting a bit of extra help.”
“Search will look more like the magazine business than the soda market,” said Oren Etzioni, a computer scientist at University of Washington and an advisory board member of Vivisimo. He predicts that users might select from a variety of services, rather than from a few dominant players.
“The competition has shifted from crawling the Web and returning an answer quickly,” Mr. Etzioni said, “to adding value to the information that has been retrieved.”
“Google is excellent at crawling as much of the Web as they can; we don’t do that,” said Mr. Valdes-Perez. Instead, Vivisimo tackles the question, “How do you solve the problem of information overload?”