New personalized search engine ranks search results according to popularity within social networks.
Friendster meets Yahoo in a newly launched search engine, Eurekster, which returns paid and non-paid search results ranked according to their popularity among networks of friends and associates.
The service, which launched Wednesday, offers personalized search, which means different types of people will get different results. Overture will supply paid placement listings under "Sponsored Listings" headings.
The Eurekster equation combines two big online moneymakers. Online personals, dating and socializing sites are among the Net's most lucrative paid content generators, racking up nearly $215 million during the first half of 2003 with expectations of reaching $642 million in 2008, according to Jupiter Research, a unit of this site's corporate parent. Also, paid search was expected by Jupiter to reach $4.3 billion by 2008.
With Eurekster, users invite friends via email to join their personal networks on the search engine, and the service learns from each search performed by network members. This enables it to deliver search results that are personalized based on all of the collective clicks and site visits. It also shares popular Web destinations with an extended community of users.
When users search on Eurekster, listings come from Yahoo-owned AllTheWeb. Eurekster has no listings of its own, but works to refine results provided by others.
For this reason, CEO Grant Ryan hopes to forge partnerships with major search engines Yahoo, Google and AOL.
"Our service can enhance their offerings. We see partnership as one of the major ways of building our business," Ryan said.
The site will carry no advertising other than the paid search listings. Currently, the rankings of the sponsored links supplied by Overture are not affected by their popularity in the network, but this will probably change, Ryan said.
"That could make the paid listings even more valuable for advertisers. Because if people find the paid site more useful and they begin to use it, that could amplify the paid listings for that advertiser," Ryan said.
In an increasingly competitive atmosphere in the search sector, any refinement or special angle can work to a company's advantage. And personalized search is an important next step for increasing relevancy, according to Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Watch, which shares a corporate parent with this publication.
Major search engines Google, Yahoo and AOL have all expressed an interest in personalization as a vital step forward, and Google owns at least two companies, Kaltix and Outride, involved with personalization.
"Eurekster's strong point is that it is relevant to you and your friends. It promotes loyalty to a certain search engine. You make an investment, you invite your friends to visit," said Charlene Li, principal analyst for Forrester Research.
"If one person says they find the site to be relevant, the numbers go up. This is another way to get your site to go up in the ranks besides buying keywords. That's the viral aspect to it," Li commented. "In the past the way to be higher on a search engine was to get other people to link to your site, but there are ways to get around that. This takes certain aspects of social networking and applies it to Web pages.
"Because of the viral aspect, it could be a valuable marketing tool," Li said.
The drawbacks, according to Li, are that friends might have different searching patterns, and also that it might not be possible to get people to participate. "It's hard to get people to sign up for something unless there's a benefit," Li pointed out.
"In general, people you choose as your friends or associates have some sort of similar view of the world," Ryan said in response to Li's first point.
With regard to her second point, Ryan said the company is actively looking to partner with established online social networks. Though he declined to say which networks, examples of well-established social sites include Yahoo Personals, which has more than 18 percent of market share for dating sites, and Match.com, with a more than 12 percent market share.
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