RealTime IT News

Monetizing Graphical Search

You could think of Vivisimo as graphical search for the left brain, and Grokker as the right brain version. Or you could look at it as a PC versus Mac split. In any case, as the companies behind both enhance their next-generation meta-search technologies, they have one thing in common -- they're keeping paid search in mind.

Vivisimo, a software company based in Pittsburgh, Pa., offers technology that clusters search results on the fly into folders labeled by category. While the typical list of search results appears on the right, the clickable folders on the left, helping the searcher make sense of the various links and drill down into more relevant results. People who love lists and are used to organizing information hierarchically may appreciate the way Vivisimo displays the folder contents as you click on the folders.

Those people may feel overwhelmed by Grokker 2.0, the zoomable graphical search interface created by Groxis. But people who think in terms of spatial relationships -- and kids who haven't fully formed linear thinking habits -- may find Grokker makes search work better. Released Monday, Grokker 2.0 lets users search indexed material and retrieve results organized into spheres of different colors and sizes, some of them nested inside each other.

"Initially the product came out as an information visualization platform," said Groxis CEO R.J. Pittman. "Since then, we made the product smart." Pittman called version 2.0 a personal data mining tool, with sophisticated information and text retrieval capabilities. According to Groxis, Grokker 2.0 will let consumers and businesses visualize massive amounts of information from any major search engine in simple elegant maps. At launch, the tool provides an interface to Amazon.com, the user's desktop files and a meta-search of six search engines: AltaVista, Yahoo!, MSN, FAST, Teoma and WiseNut. In January, it will add a separate plug-in for Google's index.

That Google plug-in will let Groxis integrate the search engine's AdWords listings into Grokker's graphical results. "Our engine can take all of those paid listing and sprinkle them though the map where it's contextually appropriate," Pittman said. So, instead of a paid listing appearing in a box on a results page, it could be a separate colored sphere within a greater category sphere. "It could be a nice, user-friendly, and far more immersive version of the Google deskbar," Pittman said.

Pittman said that he has worked closely with Google president of technology Sergei Brin on the integration. When asked whether they had discussed Google's acquiring Groxis, Pittman laughed that laugh that people laugh when the answer is yes, but they can't say so.

Vivisimo's Toolbar Promotes Its Tech

Tuesday, Vivisimo is expected to announce its own search innovations for the week. It's making available two toolbars that integrate with the browser and connect users to a meta-search demonstration on its corporate site.

The Vivisimo MiniBAR takes up minimal space on the browser, coexisting with other toolbars. The full Vivisimo Toolbar includes a pop-up blocker, the ability to find keywords on results pages, and advanced search features. With either toolbar, when someone enters text while visiting another search site, the query terms automatically appear in the MiniBAR search box. If the user doesn't like what the first search engine turned up, a Vivisimo search is just one click away.

This strategy recognizes that most Internet users already have two or three favorite search tools, according to Vivisimo president and co-founder Raul Valdez-Perez. "People are creatures of habit," he said. " It's a hard sell to come in and say, 'Forget about what you have now and get rid of it.' We purposely made a toolbar that's very brief and narrow. If people are locked into something else, that's fine."

Because the company's primary business model is licensing its technology to other companies, introducing toolbars to bring users to its own search showcase site seems counter-intuitive. In fact, it's a sort of meta-marketing initiative.

Valdez-Perez said the company views the toolbars as marketing tools to help expose people to Vivisimo technology. "We didn't make it easy for people to find us," he said. "We made the mistake early on of not buying all the misspellings of our name. So we're now trying to make it easier for someone to come to our site."

Vivisimo introduced paid listings from Overture in September, claiming that combining its technology with paid listings creates "doubly targeted" ads, targeted not only on the original query, but on the folder the user clicked on. "We now monetize our site," Valdez-Perez said, "so we can support the increased traffic."