In 2009, Seuk Weon Song of Seoul, Korea, realized the Internet had a fundamental flaw: Google.
The dominant search engine for the majority of Internet users was giving websites top billing for all the wrong reasons — SEO, keyword stuffing, tricks that most users would never see.
“Google made $37.9 billion last year mostly from search engine ad revenue … They merely connect Internet users to content others created,” said exec Joseph Lee Stanfield at the DEMO conference in Santa Clara, Calif., “We create the content that is the life blood of a search engine. So, isn’t it fair that we receive a share of the revenue?”
Instead, Song posited, the system could be fixed with a simple arrangement of payment for content that users found valuable. In other words, capitalism might be able to fix web search.
Song founded Ecobe with exactly that proposition in mind. “Because existing search engines focus only on speed and technology, Song felt confident that a search engine built upon a business model could succeed in overtaking Google,” said Stanfield in a recent interview with VentureBeat.
Here’s how the Ecobe system works: Ecobe gives website creators 40 percent of its profits. The cash gets divvied up based on each website’s “contribution” — that is, how many users click through to see the content on that particular website. Website owners can collect their payments once a month. Websites’ revenue starts adding up before anyone from that site formally registers with Ecobe; starting with the very first time a web search user clicks on that site, Ecobe is tracking the contributions.
“Ecobe restores balance to the Web ecosystem,” Stanfield continued. “Content providers are [currently] not motivated to create better and higher quality content for the web, resulting in a dire situation.”
Stanfield also noted that the startup acknowledges the origin of each geographical region’s intellectual property and promotes growth around the globe, making its scope truly worldwide. And the Ecobe model also shows a unique respect for content creators, copyright, and intellectual property, as well, putting their money where Google’s PageRank is.
“I have a dream that through Ecobe, a sustainable Web ecosystem can be created that can give people a chance to be happy,” Stanfield concluded.
Ecobe has taken a little more than $1 million in seed and angel funding to date. During DEMO in Santa Clara, the startup hopes to be able to talk with Microsoft and Yahoo, both of which also have a vested interest in creating better, more sustainable search experiences than that currently offered by Google.
Ecobe is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.
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