Thursday, January 31, 2008

Delver: Social search

Delver, a search startup, uses social networks connections to personalize users’ search results. From TechCrunch:

Delver screen shotDelver is attempting to solve two key search-related problems. The first is that current search engines do not take into account the identity of the searcher. For example, a teenager and a senior citizen performing the same query will get exactly the same results. The second is that current search engines do not allow users to search for information created and referenced by their own social graph. This is an important point because, let’s face it, social networking doesn’t offer much functional value beyond allowing people to connect with one another. The fact that you have 300 friends on Facebook, 200 on MySpace and 100 connections on LinkedIn doesn’t actually help you locate information. This is where Delver comes in. Search for “New York,” and the results that will pop up will be blog posts from people you know that mention or are about New York, or Flickr photos, YouTube videos, Delicious bookmarks, and the like.

The technology, which has been in development since 2005, combines search technologies, semantics and Natural Language Processing (NLP). Delver begins by crawling the Web in order to map users’ social connections. The information it finds on social networking profiles, blogs, bookmarks, photo and video-sharing sites is then cross-linked to the searcher’s social graph, which is built on-the-fly. Delver then prioritizes its results based upon the searcher’s social graph, thereby improving the relevancy of the results. Since every person’s social graph is unique—much like a fingerprint—the same Delver query will produce significantly different results for each person—as reflected through the collective experiences of each person’s contacts.

It will be interesting to see how this idea works out. Based on the description above it sounds something like search on Facebook, which defaults to the users network and friends (and which I find incredibly annoying). Based on my experience with Facebook, I wonder if this idea is going to be anything more than a niche solution for special searches. I’m not sure that I want all of my searches to be determined by my contacts; part of the purpose of search is to find results that are outside of a user’s normal social circle.

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