Infoaxe is a fairly unique entrant into the real-time search space. It doesn’t rely on Twitter’s data stream the way that competitors TweetMeme, OneRiot and Scoopler do. Instead, its results are based off the data it has collected through a browser toolbar it launched last year that has about 400,000 monthly active users. (2.1 million people are registered.)
People download the toolbar because it records their web history and makes it easily searchable. Users can also broadcast their surfing habits on particular sites out to friends, who can follow them like they do in an RSS reader. (People choose the web sites they want to share their browsing habits on, so it doesn’t necessarily record everything.) Infoaxe is gaining about a half-million users every 30 days for its product, meaning it is now crawling about 7 million URLs a day.
What browsing history enables is data collection without observer bias. What that means is when you’re on Facebook or Twitter and you’re actively sharing content, it’s content that you want to be seen sharing. It’s not actually the content you might look at the majority of the time.
“Observer bias cuts off a whole variety of content, which is a useful corpus to search from,” said Jonathan Siddharth, an Infoaxe co-founder. “You might be searching on Amazon to buy a new iPhone case, but that’s not something you necessarily want to broadcast out.”
Infoaxe’s toolbar also factors in engagement metrics, like how long a user stays at a particular Web site and whether its traffic is climbing rapidly.
Of course, Google has its own toolbar and does use the web surfing data it collects from it. But they don’t reveal exactly how that factors into search results. [Update: OneRiot also uses information from its toolbar as well, on top of factoring in how much an item is retweeted.] Still, Infoaxe’s founders say their search approach produces particularly strong results for commercial queries and product searches. If you look at the comparison below between Google’s results and Infoaxe’s results, Google returns product comparisons from two years ago, while Infoaxe shows a side-by-side comparison of Motorola’s recently released Droid against the iPhone 3GS.