A Closer Look at Web Searching

Google (now a verb and a noun) is the dominant search engine. But a new consumer electronics engine called Retrevo.com hopes to deliver more precise results.
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New York, NYGoogle "CEDIA." The resulting hits order themselves like the scores of a popularity contest rather than an unbiased search through the labyrinthine halls of the World Wide Web.

Web searching is a game, contradictory and complicated as a cricket match to the uninitiated. At the heart of the search is a tactic called "search engine optimization.'"

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a marketing technique designed to increase the number of visitors to a website from "algorithmic" or organic search engine listings.

Put another way, SEO is a way to appeal to Internet algorithms that increases your search relevance and subsequently web traffic. Think of magnet strength. The more potent the magnetic charge the more objects it can attract and hold. If you are a website, the better you market yourself directly to the machine algorithms influencing Internet rankings, the stronger your appeal and the more web traffic you shall yield.

Optimizing utilizes various methods: linking to other sites, tagging, amending site code, hyperlink analysis, semantic (word) analysis, and meta-data. Since search engines are not paid for traffic they reroute organically, search algorithms change often (technology is a forever a moving target). Also, many engines do not disclose their algorithms to keep searching agnostic and some engines adjust their code to keep aggressive webmasters in check. A few SEOs with obnoxious optimization campaigns have gotten their client websites blacklisted from some search engines.

is a new search engine that claims it can track any consumer electronics resource and provide custom installers with support for virtually any problem or technology question.

Retrevos spokeswoman Stephanie Trussell says that Retrevo is a good tool for CI professionals as it offers quick troubleshooting help, best use cases, and product documentation extracted from the most sequestered areas of manufacturer's websites.

Founder Vipin Jain says what differentiates his company are its three proprietary algorithmic search patterns dedicated to semantic analysis for specifically matched results. It is one of the few companies that can search online PDF files and offer instant results.

Jain stated that as products become more complex and multi-functional, the need for clarity and coherent customer care becomes even more important. Pre-sale and post-sale education, he argues, could ultimately change the customers relationship with the product. We can turn semi-experts into experts, and we help custom installers do their job even better, he said. There is no one brand for before and after the product sale, he added. We want to simplify the process and help installers educate their customers on best use. We can become a trusted adviser for the CEDIA market.

I envisage a future with more than pedestrian text-and-tag searching that is less vulnerable to optimization. According to Microsoft, Internet users spend around 11 minutes on a typical search. Even five minutes is far too long to retrieve an answer to a query with the dizzying wealth of information sources available. In telemedicine, sophisticated search techniques are being employed for epidemiology and to study scans, remotely, at warp speed. We must demand similarly enhanced indexing techniques, improved clustering methods, better user interfaces, and more intent-based searches. Hakia is a promising "meaning-driven" search development. Developed by a nuclear scientist, www.hakia.com searches not with keywords but with direct questions to the oracle. Hakia then uses rich semantic analysis on the pages it crawls in concert with a proprietary mosaic indexing strategy called Query Detection and Extraction. Despite these impressive advances, Hakia does not return correct results every time. (To be fair, they were still in alpha stage as of January '07.)

I hope that within two years voice searching, animation searching, and peripheral (mobile phone) content searching will be much more common. Cisco is making some lofty promises here with its vision of Internet 2, the "connected human network." Meanwhile, I would dig a simplified technology platform that expedites custom searching. For example, the next time I find a scrap of interesting paper of E. 2nd Street, I'll take a picture of it with my phone (or scan the paper), convert it to a jpg with which to search the fractal of the World Wide Web, right into dusty library archives. Aggregated algorithms would cross-reference my paper scrap's text, texture, and context with the infinite web stock to find the precise match.