Real-time search engine OneRiot is trying to offer a richer alternative to Twitter’s trending topics with a new engine that analyzes hot keywords suddenly emerging among thousands of status updates from social networks. It will work with its business and distribution partners to send them the right kinds of trending topics to match their needs.
Trending topics are terms that suddenly emerge or are mentioned frequently in flows of real-time data like tweets or status updates. Examples include “Lost” when the TV show is on or “Haiti” during the January earthquake.
OneRiot says that its approach is different because trending topics are often skewed by the demographics of a specific service. Digg, for example, might be overrun with Apple fanboys or Twitter might have a sudden eruption of Justin Bieber tweets from teenage admirers of the pop star.
The company says it takes a more holistic view because it analyzes streams of real-time data from Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg and a special browser toolbar it’s offered for the past year. It uses national language processing techniques to extract phrases, speech snippets and text-blocks that become “Trending Topic” candidates. The engine will compute weights for each of these terms by comparing factors like how fast each one is spreading across a network, cutting out the ones that look like spam.
Then the interesting part begins as it clusters related terms. If “Haiti” and “earthquake” often appear together in text or tweets, they’ll be paired. These clusters can also evolve throughout the day, visually showing how a news story is changing. For example, an Obama speech cluster can get split into two, representing conservative and liberal viewpoints.
After that, each cluster will get a weight depending on its popularity and how fast it’s moving across a social network. Then it will get ranked.
Different OneRiot partners will get different kinds of trending topics depending on their needs. Mobile apps or ticker-like news apps might get short phrases, while a site for discovering rich content might get longer phrases.
OneRiot is betting its ultimate success on distribution as it launched an real-time advertising network, serving content ads against search results. The more indispensable it can be to its partners, the more impressions it will have. The Boulder, Colorado-based company has raised $27 million in funding.