Searchles is a search engine, a social bookmarking site and a social network, of sorts. It combines these features into a web site that lets you share news stories you find interesting and meet other people who like those same kind of stories. It also has a widget for online publishers, so a reader on a site can find related stories and similar readers.
The Washington, D.C. company has just raised a $2 million angel round and says it has partnerships with large media companies in the works.
But this is 2008, a year when skepticism of social web services has reached its highest point yet. Searchles and many other social bookmarking services have been trying to find both users and revenue streams for years, and as far as I know, none of them have been particularly successful. In fact, nearly two years ago, VentureBeat founder Matt Marshall reviewed of a bunch of these social bookmarking and recommendation companies — Searchles, Activeweave, Diigo, Kaboodle, Jeteye, Onfolio, and others. As he noted then:
From the dozens of Silicon Valley and other start-ups feverishly developing new technologies to let you do this, you’d think it is the latest Internet El Dorado. Precious little money is being made from any of these sites. They are almost all advertising based. And yet investors keep backing them.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but not much seems to have changed in the intervening years, besides fewer investors barking up the social bookmarking tree. One highlight that comes to mind is rival Clipmarks selling to business magazine Forbes for a small amount last year. But the best-known social boomarking site is still Delicious, which was bought by Yahoo in 2005.
Because of Searchles’ focus on publishing partnerships, I have hope for this company. Content recommendation companies have been doing better than pure social-bookmarking plays. Aggregate Knowledge, for example, provides recommendations on the Washington Post’s site. Media companies are still experimenting with different recommendation services, and Searchles could break into this area.
On that note, we’re trying out another competitor, Outbrain, on VentureBeat: Outbrain lets people vote on stories (that’s what those little gold stars are, below), then recommends related stories. We have yet to turn on the recommendation part so it’s hard to say how valuable this service will be for us. But at least it’s something we know could prove useful eventually.