Social Web as Next Frontier

Remember Cuil – the Google killer? The search engine launched with much fanfare and then disappeared from the scene pretty quickly when it was determined the site’s results were not that good. Well the search engine is back with a new twist – social search. By utilizing Facebook Connect, the search engine brings you social search results with your other results. The catch is the results can only be seen by you.

This could be helpful in a number of scenarios. Imagine you are looking for vacation information and do a search on Hawaiian hotels and find that some of your friends have posted about their experiences in various hotels you are considering and moreover have shared pictures which may be of interest.

After learning about this new Facebook Results feature of Cuil, I logged onto the Cuil Facebook Application page and connected my Facebook account with the search engine.

I did some searching and found that Cuil web search has improved a great deal since its early days and its social search is good as it helps you ferret out information you could not easily get from Facebook alone.

A Cuil blog post explains further:

Cuil can uncover connections that wouldn’t be obvious with Facebook alone. Our breakthrough search technology analyzes and identifies ideas and related concepts throughout the web that we then apply to your friends’ profiles and status messages. This allows us to search in broader, more interesting ways, providing you with a richer experience.

For example, if you search for “U2,” Cuil knows that this is a famous Irish rock band with many hit records, among thousands of other facts. When this knowledge of U2 is applied to your social graph, Cuil could uncover friends who are Bono fans, are going to concerts this weekend, or even listen to “post-punk” music. The connections are limitless.

In addition, you can comment, “like” and visit your friends’ profiles right from the Cuil search page. You can even post interesting results you find to your wall using the “Share” link next to each result. To get started, just click “Connect with Facebook.” Once your profile is linked, keep an eye out for Facebook results on the right during your searches.

While Cuil is certainly not alone in trying to be the central hub of social search, its connectivity with Facebook means it has access to the data which is of the most use. Moreover it points the way to the future of search and the Internet as a whole. There is a tremendous amount of data locked up in sites like Amazon, eBay, Twitter and media companies and if it could be leveraged fully – perhaps by search engines, the web would become a much more efficient place.

For example when on an ecommerce site, you can often see information on what people who viewed a certain item ultimately purchased. This single feature has been very useful to me in reminding me to consider buying accessories with electronics such as carrying cases and car mounting equipment. Moreover when I buy something the majority of people buy, it gives me confidence that I am not making a glaring error.

What if Amazon was to share its data with Cuil? How about eBay?

Then there is Twitter. Many people glean bits of information from this nanoblogging site but how much relevant information is lost because people aren’t accustomed to searching their friend’s Twitter feeds? Then again, is a friend’s feed all that important? Using technology it is possible to ascertain with a great deal of accuracy what products people are likely to buy based on a wide range of behaviors. In other words you may have more in purchasing common with a virtual soulmate you don’t know than someone who you friend on a social networking site or are even best friends with.

During the dotcom boom a company called Netperceptions focused on building suggestion engines which helped companies suggest products to customers based on algorithmic models. The company has since evaporated with the dotcom bust but Tornago Systems is reselling the product. An email to the company was not immediately returned and the site seems like it may not have been updated since 2004.

When you combine social networking, search and suggestion engines you have a truly powerful set of tools which allow the web to be a more useful place, allowing customers to have a better idea of products and services they are interested in. Just as technology allows search engines to match users with the right search results, when you leverage virtual soulmates and social networking and combine these concepts with search, you have a truly powerful solution which roughly equates to 1+1+1=5. And if you are Cuil, you have learned that focusing on search alone is not going to topple Google any time soon. Perhaps this new Facebook Results feature will help the company establish a more dominant position in the market.

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