ManagedQ has joined the long line of start-ups claiming to be the hot new thing in search. It’s still hard to imagine that anyone will gain real traction against Google, but ManagedQ’s combination of visual search and natural language processing shows promise.
For one thing, co-founder David Stat isn’t trying to build a better search engine per se. Instead, ManagedQ is an interface that sits on top of Google — and, eventually, other search engines — and helps you navigate your search results by presenting images of each page. (I recently wrote about another start-up, Surf Canyon, that also tries to build on results from existing search engines. And if Yahoo comes through on its open search promises, we’ll see many more companies in this vein.)
Stat points out that the basic search interface hasn’t evolved since Google’s early days, and that users still have to enter their queries into a “DOS-style command line.”
“It’s like no one’s invented Windows for search,” he says.
Okay, visual interfaces aren’t new either — Kara Swisher reports that Google may soon take on the start-ups in this area — but ManagedQ’s real selling point is what it adds to visual search.
Instead of just rifling through page images, as you would with SearchMe (our coverage), ManagedQ identifies people, places and things relevant to your search, and allows you to look for a specific person, place or thing within each page. (The company uses natural language processing to make this happen.) And ManagedQ just unveiled a new feature, searching for “regular expressions” — in other words, you can look not just for every appearance of a specific term, but also for any time any number, any dollar amount, any date or time, any URL or any email address appears in each page. All of this is displayed in ManagedQ’s visual interface, so you may not need to visit any other sites.
For example, my first query was my own name. (Yes, I’m shameless.) Using ManagedQ, with one click I can display every mention of “Venture Beat” — a relevant “thing” — in the search results. Or, if I want to contact myself, I can use the new regular expressions search and tell ManagedQ to “Find all emails”. Presto — the site shows me the page with my email address. So I’ve found what I need with one query and one extra click, and I didn’t have to leave the ManagedQ interface. (See screenshot below.)
The Palo Alto, Calif.-company does risk disrupting quite a few web businesses — it’s hard to imagine that Google, for one, will be pleased. (ManagedQ already ran into trouble for using Snap‘s images, although the company found another provider on the same day.) Stat doesn’t seem too worried, saying he’ll be happy to strike a deal with existing search engines if it becomes necessary.
[Full disclosure: Stat and I lived in the same freshman dorm, but we haven't spoken in the six years since. We're not even Facebook friends.]