Wow, you can launch a start-up these days, and in two years sell it for a pretty nifty sum.

Truveo, the Burlingame start-up that was launched in January 2004, has been sold to AOL. We’ve heard from a pretty good source that it was $50 million.

Looks like they came up with some new technology, which collects so-called “metadata’ for video files. This makes it easier for users to search for such files (see snippet below from Truveo’s site). The technology might be their differentiation, and probably explains their success. So this will break open the debate: Is the sale amount evidence of bubble (comments below are already interesting on this), or a just a premium price paid for good technology?

We felt that if we could build a crawler that could identify the visual characteristics of a typical web application in the same way that a person could, then it would be possible to find and index all of the web video that other crawlers miss. We call this new approach “visual crawling”.

Two years later, we have moved our visual crawling technology out of the lab and begun to…

crawl the web for video. Even though we are just getting started, we have already indexed an extensive collection of web video that you will not find in any other search engine. Of course, as we continue to crawl the web, our search engine gets better every day.

Finding all the video files on the web is only part of the challenge. For video to be searchable, it is also necessary to collect meaningful text metadata to associate with each video file. Of course, we rely on standard techniques, such as mining closed-caption transcripts and importing RSS feeds. The vast majority of video on the web, however, does not have any closed-caption or RSS metadata available. Fortunately, our visual crawlers come to the rescue. Whenever our visual crawlers find a new video on the web, they can also “visually” examine the context of the surrounding web application. In most cases, this examination reveals a bounty of rich and detailed metadata related to every video.

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