Spock, the Redwood City, Calif. search engine for people, launches tomorrow after a year of suspense.
It has remained secretive for months (see our original coverage), testing its engine, adding some 100,000 profiles and inserting other social networking features. In those past stories, we showed examples of how profile pages of people contain all sorts of information about people.
We asked chief exec Jaideep Singh how he plans to make money. He said the company will serve ads next to searches just like Google does, though it will wait a few months before doing so.
Spock’s focus is key. If it can make people search fun and memorable, it has a chance to steal searchers from Google. About 30 percent of searches on Google are for people (Spock estimates that 20 billion searches are done on people monthly across all search engines), even if a good chunk is vanity search. People are obsessed with themselves and with others. Spock could prove more useful to Google if it mines the Web for all the information about someone and then organizes it coherently. Below is an example of a small profile of Dick Cheney found when searching for “President” (he’s not president, but as Vice President he ranks high in results).
LinkedIn, ZoomInfo and Xing, all services that compete in some way with Spock, by offering business information about people, do not have the same interactive features. On Spock, you can submit a tag on a person, labeling him say, a “funny guy.” Other users can then come along and give a thumbs up on the tag. As second, third and fourth endorsements are made, the tag grows in size, reflecting it is a significant trait about the person. In the case of Dick Cheney, early test users appear to have marked Cheney “acting President.”
Here’s a way Spock differs from Google: Type “boxer” into Spock, and its top search results are Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. Type it into Google, and it returns a Wikipedia entry for a “boxer” dog.
Spock also allows you to create widgets of your favorite searches, and paste them into your blog. See our example of Web 2.0 venture capitalists in image below. You can go in and click on the profiles, and vote (by clicking on the Web 2.0 tag) whether you agree or not that the VC should be ranked highly as a Web 2.0 VC. If you vote no, it will help drive that VC down in the rankings.
VB's research team is studying web-personalization... Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.