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Teoma Targets Google's Kingdom, But...

Looking to take a bite out of Google's search technology kingdom, Emeryville, CA-based Ask Jeeves officially launched the Teoma search engine with neat tools aimed at refining Web searches but experts aren't buying into the hype that Teoma could pose a genuine threat to Google.

"Labeling Teoma a Google killer makes for a great headline, but is really rather silly. Teoma is a very good search engine, but at this point it poses very little threat to Google's dominance of the web search world," said Chris Sherman, who writes for internetnews.com sister site SearchEngineWatch.

Experts in the search engine space mirrored Sherman's sentiments after testing Teoma's capabilities, handing out bouquets for the several nifty and unique aspect of results returned but lamenting the fact that it's way too small to effectively compete with Google.

But, for Ask Jeeves, which acquired the New Jersey-based Teoma last October, it's not about competing head-to-head with Google but, rather, the challenge is to return relevant search results in a market still ripe for the picking.

"What we're trying to do is develop the best search engine. The fundamental capabilities of Teoma, we believe, is the best available on the Web. We're focusing on search refinement and resources and we think we can create a niche for ourselves," said Steven Berkowitz, president of Web Properties at Ask Jeeves.

"Yes, Google is dominant but this is a big market. The market is big enough for alternatives. Teoma is going to be a very viable and successful alternative to search. Web users like to perform searches differently, in different categories. That's where the relevancy of our results will give us a place in this market," Berkowitz said in an interview.

For each search query, Teoma returns three kinds of results: a user gets "relevant web pages," much like the results of similar search engines along with a "refine" option to allow the user to narrow the search and a "resources" option which provides link collections from experts.

"Each set of results is useful, for different reasons. And all three types of results are generated using proprietary technology that makes them somewhat unique compared to other engines," Sherman said, noting that Teoma "goes beyond traditional keyword and text analysis and seeks out "hubs" and "authorities" related to your query terms -- a "social network" of related content that forms a "community" about the topic."

Users testing the Teoma service also applauded the ability of the search engine to pinpoint resources within so-called Web communities and return accurate results.

"I was particularly impressed by the determination of the relevancy of my searches through the 'resources' option. The link collections options pointed to very specific places within communities. I found that to be a super feature," said Kenny Green, a search enthusiast who tested the site's new features.

"That's where we think we'll find our niche," said Ask Jeeves' Berkowitz. "In the early days of the Web, long before Google came alone, people used different engines to find different types of results. And, that will continue. Users will find a need for Teoma's features," he said.

SearchEngineWatch's Sherman agrees, saying "it's the "refine" results that are perhaps Teoma's most unique feature. These links are automatically generated labels that "define" a community for the query words you're using."

"So even if your initial query doesn't provide spot-on results, the "refine" links allow you to "drill down" into a community, potentially revealing information you can't easily find with traditional approaches to information processing," he wrote.

On the business side, Ask Jeeves is using a three-fold revenue-generating model on Teoma. Berkowitz said Teoma will run basic brand advertising (banners/towers). It will also adopt a pay-for-placement model where the engine returns sponsored results as the first two listings on the page. He said the links would be clearly identified as sponsors and separated from the rest of the search results.

Berkowitz said Ask Jeeves also plans to make money from the paid site submit program run by Ineedhits.com. Under the site submit program, business can add up to 1,000 different URLs for inclusion in a database that powers search results.

Pricing for the paid inclusion program is on a per URL basis with the first Web address costing $30. Each additional URL to the 1,000 limit would cost $18 each.

"You can pay to have your sites deeply and frequently spidered to be more current. Paid inclusion will add to the relevancy of the results," he added.

Despite Berkowitz's stance that there is room for another player in the space, every initial review of Teoma is peppered with comparisons to Google and Sherman gets the last word on how they stack up.

"Teoma is not a wholesale replacement for Google, nor is it an engine you'll want to use exclusively. Teoma's index of 200 million pages is tiny compared to most of the other major search engines. And the company doesn't intend to compete on size, but rather on providing "authoritative" results."

Think of Teoma as a new type of hybrid between a search engine and a directory, incorporating the best features of both...Teoma isn't a Google killer now, and likely never will be, but it's still an excellent search engine for many types of queries. Definitely worth adding to your web search toolkit."

Editor's Note: Information from Chris Sherman's Teoma vs. Google, Round Two review was used in this report.