Your Search or Mine?

A San Francisco startup is offering a new way to get better search results: Rely on the kindness of strangers.

That is, Jeteye hopes searchers will rely on strangers (and friends) who have packaged together what they think are the best search results on a particular topic into Jetpacks. Unlike traditional search engines that offer individual links to content that may or may not be useful to the searcher, Jeteye results lead off with any Jetpacks that match the query, followed by results from other search engines.

After free registration, users can create Jetpacks and specify whether or not others can modify them. Searchable content includes blogs, images and other digital media files. For example, a Jetpack about a particular band might include photos of the band, links to official and fan Web sites, reviews, guitar chords and streaming music or video.

Allowing modification opens the Jetpack up to the wiki-like benefits of online collaboration. Users can add comment on open Jetpaks, rate them and e-mail them to others.

“This is the idea of the read/write Web,” said Gartner analyst Whit Andrews. “The Web is there for you and me to annotate it, share it with our friends, share it with our business associates, to add a layer of insight and personal understanding.”

A downside of the service is that its utility depends on a large base of active users.

“The hairy assumption is that people want to do this, and that they’re going to do a good job,” Andrews said. “There is some value to me if I use it myself; if you used it and I cared what you thought, it would be substantially more valuable for me.”

Yankee Group analyst Su Li Walker agreed. “To build up all these topics you do somewhat need mass market adoption,” she said, “so that, no matter what search terms are out there, there’s a Jetpak around it.”

Walker said Jeteye ties into the growing interest in consumer-generated content such as blogs and recommendation sites. “It’s interesting how it integrates search and extends it into personalization,” she said. “They’re building off consumers’ trust of other users.”

Relevance of search results is determined by user ratings of individual Jetpaks and analysis of factors including the amount of time spent on a Jetpak, the frequency of updating, and the number of times other Jetpaks have linked to it.

“As the site gains in mass, it will have more relevant Jetpaks, and the most relevant items will rise to the top,” said company spokesman Nathaniel Eberle.

According to the Yankee Group’s Walker, “The user base initially will be passionate people who are willing to spend time to create a search topic. People who latch onto it first will be more aware searchers, those familiar with the online space.”

Jeteye will be supported by advertising provided by an undisclosed outside ad network. The company also is offering branded Jetpaks that feature the sponsor’s logo branding. Sponsored Jetpaks initially be placed first in search results, but users also can rate the sponsored Jetpaks to adjust their standing in the results.

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