Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Don't compare Kosmix to Google, just go Explore

KOSMIX, A well- financed Silicon Valley start-up, is often described on blogs and news sites as a search engine that may someday rival Google.

As flattering as that notion may sound, it rankles Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman, the co-founders of Kosmix. And that's not because other start-ups making similar assertions have fallen laughably short of the mark. It's because Kosmix is trying to do something quite different from traditional Web search. "Search does what it does well, very well," Harinarayan said. "I don't think we can ever compete with that." Kosmix, he said, is not about finding the best set of documents for a specific keyword or phrase. Instead, its goal is to 'Explore' and I'tell me more about something," he said.

Kosmix founders Harjnarayan and Rajaraman

For a key word or topic that a user enters, Kosmix gathers content from across the Web to build a multimedia encyclopredia entry on the fly.

Its home page offers a mix of news, entertainment and other content from the Web. But" it is on searches that Kosmix becomes interesting.

Type in "Kauai," for example, and Kosmix will return a fairly rich page that includes an entry from WikiTravel, a rant recommendations from The New York Times; photos and videos from services like Flicker: and YouTube; clips of local music; reviews of guide books, bed-and-breakfasts services; blogposts and more.

By scouring the Web, the company has built a huge taxonomy, a set of nearly five million categories on topics from people and locations to car models, music groups and types of cheese.

"With the explosion of information on the Web, it is very hard to have an editorial function with only humans," Harinarayan said. "We are giving you an automated editor for any topic."

Last week, Kosmix released a service that creates a news site and allows people to tailor it to their interests to a far greater degree than Google News or MyYahoo.

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