Challenging Google…differently

We hear a lot in the search engine world about how everyone wants to be the next Google. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to do things the Google way.

Take Kozoru. They’re a new, up-and-coming search engine from Kansas (the Digital Prairie, they call it out there) and they want to steal market share from Google. But unlike a lot of search engines, they’re not aiming to scour and index every scrap of information on the web. They’re going for quality over quantity.

“We’re going for a niche,” said Kozuru CEO John Flowers. “We’re specifically focusing on providing answers to specifically tailored questions.

“If you’re asking a question about what car in 2003 had the highest safety rating, or how do I change the oil in my Acura, you can get those results in a regular search engine. But you’ll have to sift through a lot answers.

“We are trying to determine who the most authorative sources are,” he said. “We believe there’s a way to measure the authority of sources.”

Google shares the same goal – connecting users with the most authoritative sources. Its solution — called PageRank – is to rank web sites higher if they have more authoritative links pointing to them. The idea is that the web community annoints web sites as authoritative by linking to them.

But Flowers says that just because a web site is popular doesn’t make it an authoritative source.

Kozoru’s approach is to put the web in its rightful place in the information food chain, which is below other, vetted sources of information such as the dictionary and encyclopedias.

“What we’re doing is building a baseline of authority, and we’re starting with the dictionary,” said Justin Patrick Gardner, communications director for Kozoru. “And we’re putting the encyclopedia on top of that. And on top of that we’re putting news. And on top of that, you’ve got the web, which is opinion…We’re putting the Internet in the context of where it belongs. There’s good information on the Internet. But there’s a lot of bad information, too.”

Flowers said that PageRank and other search engine algorithms also suffer because they do not understand how to measure whether something is current or not. Thus, an old, popular web site or page may stay at the top of search results, even if its information is no longer relevant.

“Kozoru will know the difference between an article that came out today and one that came out 20 years ago,” Flowers said.

Kozoru is not due to launch until July 2005. So it remains to be seen whether its results will actually be that much better, or more importantly, whether web users will care.

Battling the Googles and the Yahoos of the world — “We want to go head-to-head with the major players,” Flowers said — won’t be easy. Most web users have established their favoritie search engines, and it won’t be easy for anyone to get them to change (Ask Jeeves is already fighting this battle).

Flowers, a former teen hacker, started Hiverworld Inc., which later became nCircle Network Security, in 1998. He founded NeuroSoft, where he helped create the original version of 777-FILM. He was also chief architect at Farcast (later InQuisit) — an agent-based news delivery system acquired by AskJeeves in 1999.

On the Kozoru board is Ask Jeeves co-founder David Warthen.

“I have a bunch of really smart people around me,” Flowers said. “”I’m very excited.”

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