RealTime IT News

Snap a Difference in Search?

A new commercially oriented search engine meant to compete with Google, Yahoo and Microsoft re-launched today.

It's called Snap.com, and it has some ideas about how to play the search game better.

Snap's most significant differentiation, CEO Tom McGovern told internetnews.com, is its revenue model. Instead of charging advertisers by the traditional pay-per-click model used by the big three, Snap will charge per business action.

McGovern said advertisers love the model, especially because of how it deals with the click fraud problem.

"Cost-per-action doesn't have the element of click fraud because if the traffic doesn't convert, the advertiser doesn't pay," McGovern said. "Amazon, eBay -- they love this model because they only pay when they generate business."

Snap also displays its results differently.

Google, Yahoo and Microsoft display sponsored results on the right and algorithmic results on the left. Snap displays only one list on the left, using the right side of the screen to show users a preview of a highlighted search result.

In the list on the left, Snap integrates sponsored and algorithmic results, because, McGovern said, sometimes sponsored results are the most relevant results.

Snap is the result of Idealab, Internet pioneer Bill Gross' business factory.

McGovern said that, in 1998, Gross gave a speech announcing GoTo, which would eventually become Overture. In that speech Gross said that sponsored search results were the way of the future.

He was booed off the stage, McGovern said.

"People said 'You're going to make ads look like search results? You can't do that with search; you're going to ruin search," he added.

But making ads look like search results was a $600 million industry last year, McGovern said.

Now, he hopes that some of the ideas behind Snap will turn out profitable.

Google spokesman Brandon McCormick said Google maintains that separation because "The user experience is incredibly important to Google, and feedback has consistently shown that users prefer a clear distinction between natural and paid search results."

But Internet advertising revenue went up 30 percent in 2005. Google led the way toward those numbers, selling a product much of the industry didn't want to sell eight years ago.

Five years from now, McGovern thinks people will look at the new ideas behind Snap the same way. But he acknowledges arguments are ahead.

"In some ways it gets into a religious issue. [Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft] are religious about their user interface. It's like separation of church and state," McGovern said. "But we think that's where the industry is going."