"Watch out Google... here we come!"
Anyone familiar with outspoken Internet billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will not be surprised to read that statement on his blog. But if you haven't been paying attention, you may not know which "we" he is referring to.
Cuban, who founded Broadcast.com and later sold it to Yahoo for about $6 billion, took a 6.3 percent stake in meta search engine Mamma.com in March. He quickly lost interest and sold his shares at the end of June.
But he's back in the search engine ring with Dallas-based start-up IceRocket, a meta-search engine that is in the "in the simplification and fun businesses," according to IceRocket's CEO Blake Rhodes.
"Sometimes you want to find information, sometimes you just want to browse for the fun of it," Rhodes said. "We want our features to make finding information and feeling confident in your selection simple, and we also want to make the fun side of IceRocket.com addictive."
Some of the features that IceRocket includes are thumbnail pictures of each site in the results list, a "quickview" window to see a site without leaving the results page, Alexa rankings and links to archived Web pages. An email search currently being tested targets PDA and cell phone users.
The site also has a picture search, with links to different sites than most image search engines use, according to Rhodes. "We have links to not just the old standbys that the big guys use and spider, but we also are proactively adding sites and indexing their metadata," he said. "Sites like Webshots, where people post their personal pictures, along with Moblog and other camera phone sites as well. You will always find more pictures when you search with us, and from diverse sources."
IceRocket also offers a "find a friend" feature, which searches several of the "check out my picture" sites like Face the Jury, Am I Hot, and Game to Fame, Rhodes said. Users can search by demographic info, and eventually by name and meta data, he said.
Although these features can all be found somewhere else, there is value in bringing them together in one place, Rhodes said. The company is adding new features daily, Rhodes said, with the goal to make the site "faster, more fun and more addictive every day".
"We realize that whatever new features we come up with, others can copy. So what?" he said. "Our mission is to never rest; to enhance the product every day, and make it better every day. The goal is to connect to enough users that they make us their starting and ending point for information, and that is a satisfying and profitable business for us."
IceRocket is currently evaluating pay-per-click and other advertising options, he said.
Contrary to what IceRocket's outspoken "advisor with an equity interest" Cuban says, and despite the striking similarity in home page design, Rhodes says the company isn't looking to "out-Google" Google.
"We want IceRocket.com to give you choices and make it easy for you select from among them. We also want IceRocket.com to give you features and content sources that aren't available elsewhere," he said. "Our goal is to create a fanatical group of users who enjoy using IceRocket.com and to keep on making it better and better for them."
Right now, the company plans to market the site solely by word of mouth -- which is much easier if you have a mouth like Cuban's doing the talking.
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Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.
Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.
With a combination of real-world marketing experience and years of business journalism, Kevin brings to ClickZ a unique ability to deliver news and training materials that help online marketers do their jobs better.