We spent some of the day at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco today, listening to some of the brightest Internet minds talk about the Web as the next big platform for development. In one workshop, Seth Goldstein and Steve Steinberg of Majestic Research were talking about turning Web data into investment ideas. At one point, Goldstein turned the conversation to Google and its vow to treat the investment community differently than other big companies do.
Goldstein said Google’s vow not to give in to the pressures of Wall Street and give guidance to analysts was all backwards.
“If they really wanted to be totally transparent with the investment community, they’d put a ticker on their web site that showed how many searches had been done that day or the keyword price that advertisers were paying,” he said.
It seemed an outlandish idea, and you could almost hear the snickers in the room.
Then an hour later, Bill Gross, the brains behind IdeaLab in Pasadena stood before several hundred conference attendees and said he was launching a company that would do exactly what Goldstein had just proposed. The company is a new search engine called Snap, and Gross said he and his partner intend to publish key statisitcs about the business — how much adverstisers are paying for keywords, information about revenues — prominently on the site.
“We think increased transparency will lead to an enhanced experienece for the users and advertisers,” he said.
Aside from the transparency issue, Snap itself is a unique search engine, to say the least. It lets users reorder their search results using several different criteria, such as Web site popularity. And for some searches, it will offer customized sorting capabilities. A search for cameras, for example, produces a separate table of results that can be sorted by resolution, zoom strength, flash range and several other features.
“This allows you to get results in the order that matters to you,” Gross said.
When Gross helped create the commercial search engine GoTo.com in the late 1990s, people were underwhelmed. GoTo became Overture Services and grew into a company that Yahoo paid $1.63 billion for in 2003.
Nonetheless, at least one search expert was unimpressed by Snap.
“I’ve seen small airplanes that were easier to fly,” said Louis Monier, inventor of the Alta Vista search engine. Monier said users don’t want all the bells and whistles that Gross is offering with Snap. They want one search box to take them to their search results as quickly as possible.