Wize.com, the search engine that ranks products

Wize.com, a San Mateo start-up, has launched yet another search engine for consumer electronics and other goods.

Wize’s promise hangs on a single, skinny thread: Its “Wize Rank” concept. Wize Rank is a numeric ranking of products (from zero to 100). Each product is rated according to how well users and reviewers judge it, along with the buzz it’s getting. It is a cute play on Google’s concept of “Page Rank.” The exact “Wize Rank” formula is proprietary, and so not being published. This lack of transparency may cause some people to dismiss it, but then Google’s algorithm has remained secret too.

It is very late in the game to be launching new engines like this. Wize focuses on research, and joins a full field of players such as Become and Retrevo. We played a bit with Wize, and it doesn’t let you buy products directly, but directs you which vendors are selling them for the lowest price. Here, it also has competition in Shopping.com, Nextag, Thefind.com and Pricegrabber. (Update: ViewScore, of Tel Aviv, Israel, is doing the exact same thing as Wize, a reader points out below, making even less original than we thought. Meanwhile, other sites are doing something similar for specific niches, i.e., movies, games etc.).

And yet Wize has gotten $4 million in funding from Mayfield Fund and Bessemer Venture Partners, a sign that the search engine sector — dominated by Google, and to a lesser extent Yahoo — is so profitable that its worth gunning for a success even if the odds of doing so are very poor.

Here’s the basic Wize Rank equation:

wizerank.bmp

Wize relies on 1,042,806 consumer product reviews of 17,668 products.

Its weakness is that it remains subjective like most other rating sources (why does “buzz” matter, for example?). Each user has different needs. Wize.com says we should consider its method similar to Wine Spectator’s scoring. But Wine Spectator’s tasting scores are quite subjective. WS’s scores became popular because it was one of the early players to rate wine. Perhaps Wize can win some respect for its numbering system, in which case it could become quite a success (there is less chance of this happening, now that we’ve seen Viewscore). Here is an example of a camera that has received a score of 100:

wizerankexample.bmp

Wize CEO Tom Patterson was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Mayfield last year, the company said.