Multimedia Search: Singingfish

Looking for audio or video files on the Web? Singingfish has offered its multimedia search engine since mid-2000, but the company recently signed a deal to power audio/visual searching in Microsoft’s Windows Media Player (WMP) client.

The January deal means Singingfish now provides multimedia searching capabilities for two of the Web’s largest digital media players; Singingfish is already tied into the RealOne Player through an agreement signed with Microsoft-rival Real, back in 2001. The distribution deals helped Singingfish pass the 1 million queries per day hurdle in late January.

Singingfish has gained a Google-like dominance providing multimedia search to audio/visual players. What exactly is the multimedia content Singingfish provides access to, via searches at its own site and through client players?

Types of Multimedia Content Singingfish Can Find

Singingfish describes itself in various ways. “Audio video search,” “streaming media search,” and “multimedia search” are all terms it uses. The first is most precise. Singingfish locates audio or video files across the Web. It discovers them the same way Google locates HTML files: employing a spider to crawl the Web. The company also accepts “feeds” from content providers, telling it directly about files they have.

Singingfish cannot actually watch or listen to the files it indexes to know what they’re about. Instead, it relies mainly on meta data embedded into the files to understand the content. As with meta tags for HTML files, multimedia file meta tags let authors indicate title, description, and other file information. This provides important clues that help a multimedia search engine know what’s in the files.

The best known multimedia file format is MP3, a popular way to store audio electronically. Yes, Singingfish can hunt for MP3 files. The service can also locate QuickTime, RealOne, and Windows Media files. These formats are used to record content such as movie trailers, sporting events highlights, live music events, and video news clips.

A search for “colin powell” at the Singingfish search engine returns in the first page of results several video clips of the U.S. Secretary of State speaking, provided by U.S. State Department, the BBC, and MSNBC.

Unfortunately, there’s no ability to sort results by date, though Singingfish does boost more recent content, to help it rise to the top. To increase the odds of finding a specific speech, you’d need to choose your words carefully.

The same is true if you’re looking for sporting event information, such as “six nations rugby,” which returned files relating to the 2002 championships. Substituting “2003 six nations rugby” might bring back more current files, though it didn’t work when I tried, probably because the 2003 series had only just begun.

I put Singingfish to work on New Year’s Day, always a depressing time for me. Watching the Pasadena Rose Parade every year is a tradition I’ve had to live without since I moved to the U.K. back in 1997. My new annual tradition is to see if I can find a live Webcast of the event (so far, no luck).

Singingfish came through, sort of. It easily located several Rose Parade Webcams backed by HGTV. Unfortunately, these cams showed how floats were constructed, in real time. During the parade, all they broadcast were empty warehouses!

Searching Via Singingfish and Partners It Powers

Searches can be done at the Singingfish Web site and within WMP or RealOne Player. Any differences between the three?

At the Singingfish site, you have the most control. The advanced search page lets you select exact file types and bit rates, narrow to live feeds, group content by category, and engage a family filter.

What you won’t get is content promoted on the home page. That’s great if you want a “pure” multimedia search experience. Yet it was nice to see how the RealOne Player home screen alerted users to Daytona 500 clips and “The Matrix Reloaded” trailer. The WMP offered similar suggestions and content organization.

Within the RealOne Player, a search box is in the upper right screen of the RealOne Guide page (the home screen that should appear in the player when it loads, also available via your Web browser). Using the RealOne Guide’s search brings back results nearly identical to those you’d receive doing the same search at Singingfish. The ordering is slightly different, in part because Real’s content is boosted over other types.

A “more options” link appears on the results screen. It provides access to some advanced features similar to those found on the Singingfish site, but not all of them.

As for WMP, the Microsoft deal means Singingfish powers search within version 9 of the player. Searching is supposed to be backwards-compatible with other versions, such as WMP 8, which I use. You should find search via a box near the top left side of the WindowsMedia.com screen that appears when selecting the Media Guide tab (or go to the WindowsMedia.com site directly via a Web browser).

By default, searching Singingfish this way will show category links above actual search results. By clicking on these links, you can narrow results to those matching a particular category, such as “movies,” “entertainment,” or “news.” At Singingfish you can do this only by visiting the advanced search page.

Aside from category links, results via WMP are likely to be very different from those at the Singingfish site. Real and QuickTime content is not included in results, and family-filtering is enabled by default (family filtering is default in Real, as well).

How to Get Listed

Enough of searching multimedia content via Singingfish. Here are tips on getting included.

As mentioned, Singingfish finds content by crawling the Web. If yours is missing, try using the submit page. Provide your home page URL and Singingfish will spider from that to other pages on your site, seeking multimedia files.

Singingfish accepts content feeds in XML and other formats. This is done on both a free and a paid-inclusion basis. To get involved, click on either the paid-inclusion link or basic stream submission link at the bottom of the submit page.

Finally, should you not want your content included in Singingfish, it obeys robot exclusion (robots.txt) files. Full instructions can be found on the site’s page about the Singingfish Spider.

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