Google Gets Personal

  |  October 1, 2003   |  Comments

The search engine buys more search technology in a bid to stay one step ahead of the competition in the escalating search arms race.

Google on Tuesday announced it acquired Kaltix, a three-month old search technology startup at work on improving search results relevance through personalization.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed. A Google representative said the Mountain View, Calif., company gains three engineers and all technologies Kaltix developed. The representative declined to go into detail about how Google would use Kaltix's search advancements, citing competitive reasons.

Kaltix and Google share common roots. Both companies were born out of Stanford University's computer science labs, where Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page developed the PageRank algorithm that became the backbone of what is now the world's top search engine.

Kevin Lee, chief executive of search optimization firm Did-It.com, said the acquisition would give Google more firepower to stay ahead of old rivals like Yahoo and MSN, as well as emerging threats like Amazon.

"My guess is they might just use the team and their smarts to enhance their algorithmic results," he said.

In the past year, Yahoo has invested heavily in building its search capabilities, mostly through acquisition. In the past year, it has scooped up Inktomi, along with AltaVista and FAST's Web search unit through its deal for Overture Services. MSN has also made heavy investments in buffing up its search technology, with an eye toward challenging Google in algorithmic search.

Emerging search players, such as eBay and Amazon.com, further muddy the picture. Last week, Amazon disclosed it started a subsidiary to develop e-commerce-related search technologies.

Google has used acquisitions before to shore up specific areas of need. For example, in April it bought Applied Semantics to improve its ability to serve contextual paid listings.

Google said Kaltix's focus is on personalizing search and making it context sensitive. Search engines dream of tailoring the search experience for users. With personalization, a search engine can more intelligently figure out what a user is searching for, based on previous searches. A much-used example is the ability, when the user inputs the word "jaguar," to distinguish whether the user is searching for information about the car, the Apple operating system, or the cat.

Advertisers stand to benefit from personalized search through improved relevancy of advertisements. Already Google and Overture are experimenting with local search products that promise to match users with advertisers in a specific location.

Yahoo rolled out personalization features as part its revamped search service introduced in April, allowing users to set search preferences to improve their results.

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