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Wowd Ups Its Real-Time Search Game

Does the world need another search engine? For most users comfortable with market leader Google or one of its two closest competitors, Yahoo and Microsoft Bing, the answer is probably no.

But that isn't deterring startup Wowd, which believes it offers enough new innovation and value to attract users.

"There's a real opportunity with real-time results and we think we're solving a different problem than Google," Wowd CEO Mark Drummond told InternetNews.com. "What we're offering is a real-time directory of what's popular on the Web right now on a planetary scale, literally covering trillions of URLs."

Wowd launched last fall and has just released a second version that lets users capture and organize much more of the so-called real-time Web content available on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

The new offering features what Wowd said is the first personalized, real-time tag cloud. In addition to a more traditional search query, users can click on a Hot Topics link to see a snapshot of the most popular topics on the Web at the moment, including links from blogs, Twitter and other public Web sites.

Beyond its standard set of results, Wowd's "SearchStream" continuously looks for new information related to a search query. For example, you might see an alert that 25 new results have come in for "Obama" in less than a minute or two after getting the initial results.

To take advantage of SearchStream, users need to download Wowd's browser application.

Search powered by anonymous voting

Drummond said the distributed nature of Wowd's cloud architecture means each user's computer drives results. "Think of it like Skype for search discovery. Each PC is like an anonymized voting machine," he said.

Essentially, Wowd determines what's popular based on the pages people visit rather than Web crawlers, so the company doesn't need the massive collection of datacenters employed by traditional search firms, according to Drummond.

That system could give privacy advocates something to cheer about. "We don't track anything, we don't even have your IP address. All your participation is an anonymized vote," said Drummond. "It's phenomenal from a privacy perspective."

Meanwhile, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) have steadily reduced the amount of time a they store user's search information from years to months, but are still under pressure from privacy groups to reduce or eliminate that collection which the company's say they need to provide better, more personalized results.

Google and Yahoo have also added real-time results from Twitter and elsewhere to their core search offerings, and a number of startups, such as OneRiot, have focused on providing real-time search results. But Wowd has a few additional tricks. You can click on Best All-Time to get a best overall result. For example, a search for "Apple" will likely produce Apple's home page as a top result, just as Google and Yahoo would do.

But you can also click on Wowd's Best Now link to see the most recent, real-time results, which are also ranked by quality, not just those that are most current. Again, an additional results total spills in as more become available.

Drummond said Wowd's results are based on what the majority of people are interested in across the Web, at any given moment.

Wowd's founder is Dr. Borislav Agapiev who serves as CTO and vice president of search. Agapiev previously worked at Intel where he was on the team that developed the P6 microarchitecture. The company headquarters are in Palo Alto, Calif. though development work is primarily done in Agapiev's native Serbia. Primary backers are Draper Fisher Jurvetson and KPG Ventures.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.