Francois Bourdoncle, CEO, Exalead

Francois BourdoncleWe’re swimming in search engine providers: vertical search for that
business sector, specialized search for everything from flow valves to blog

But Google still rules everyone’s minds (and market share, according
to Neilsen//NetRatings)when starting a search. What’s a player with a unique
approach to the technology to do?

Exalead’s CEO, Francois Bourdoncle, recently
chatted with about how he wants to steal more minds.

With the Enterprise 4.0 version freshly updated this month, and more
users spreading good word of mouth about Exalead’s so-called
search-by-serendipity approach, the French-based company is enjoying the
buzz factor. Bourdoncle takes it from there.

Q: Google is making its own play in enterprise. What makes your
product more compelling for enterprise search than the big players?

I think there are two key aspects. First, our search platform and its
unified search technology, both in terms of the base technology but also in
terms of the user interface.

Our difference is the way we integrate search
on the desktop. For instance, using something we call the
search-by-serendipity experience. It’s a consistent way to search across the
entire enterprise, and this is unique to Exalead.

We do hold a patent on some aspects of the user interface. It’s unique in
its approach to merge all the search results together and provide a way, for
instance, to narrow the search across all the sources that you’re

For example, if you do a search in the enterprise, or within a
work group, the [Exalead] search engine comes up with a way, for example, to
narrow your search to PDF documents. So, by simply clicking on the PDF, you
can refine you query to search for PDF docs across the entire enterprise,
including your desktop.

The other thing that’s unique to Exalead is our market positioning. We
try to bring together the simplicity of the consumer-oriented search
systems, much like Google’s approach, together with adaptivity and
fine-tuning other higher-end offerings.

So we’re trying to bring together
the best of both worlds: the simplicity of deploying a consumer product,
with the sophistication of refined searches, with scalability.

Q: Why are my search results so different on Exalead compared to
Google, or even MSN?

Well, we are addressing that issue by indexing more pages. We [got up to]
4 billion documents indexed by the end of January. That’s still small
compared to Google’s indexes, which have anywhere from 10 to 20 billion

Our homepage had real-time documents that were showing how we were
increasing the pages by 100 million every couple of days. That’s to show you
that this is a real-time index and that we’re making it fresher and fresher.

That’s important. You want it to be fresh and big enough. Then there’s
the question of ranking. Obviously, each [search engine provider] has their
own ranking system. Google has a way of doing this. We have ours. At the end
of the day, it’s not ranking that matters. It’s really how to narrow down
your search and find what you’re looking for. That’s what we’re working on.

Q: Is search becoming more vertically focused?

I think it’s the opposite. This market is concentrating
horizontally. There won’t be much of a difference between consumer
offerings and enterprise offerings [before long].

Web search is part
of the overall information access experience, including in the enterprise,
and that’s why we integrate search into the enterprise product.

The important thing is not only about asking questions, etc., but
what’s important is the way for people to manage their search results. That
includes previewing them. It includes narrowing search, sorting the results
by date, for instance, by different types of documents, and search-by-serendipity.

You start with few terms, then you identify your date
of interest, then you can sort of refocus your search as you go along, so
that you actually formulate the search you had in mind when you
formulated during your query.

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