Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Beauty of One Box Search

Google has made one-box searching a pleasure for the web. If the query is pretty simple and you want to find a web site rather than data, then the results, by and large are pretty good.

But you're in real trouble when you try more complex queries like "flights from London to Cape Town from May 1-12" or "property in Tribeca with 3 bedrooms". The results on Google are useless.

Traditionally vertical search engines have been better than Google at getting the right results but they have been unable to deliver a service in an such simple way with "one-box search".

Recently, Mobimissimo (an Index investment) in travel and DotHomes (a TAG investment, which used to be called Extate) in property have started to break this mould.

Although category coverage is very important in vertical search, this is relatively easy to do compared to general areas like the web, images or video as the sources of information are generally well known and fairly limited. Of course, there are major challenges in structuring data and keeping it fresh but coverage is only one piece of the jigsaw - search was never won by index size alone.

Both Mobimissimo and DotHomes offer similar or more coverage than their better known rivals such as Kayak or Trulia. But what is probably most interesting about Mobimissimo and DotHomes is that they allow queries and deliver results in an interface that is much more natural and intuitive to use -- the fabled "one-box".

To find flights on Kayak from London to Cape Town will mean you have to engage with at least 4 boxes;

with Mobissimo its one-box and when you get your results you can easily change currency, see local weather, photos from Flickr and even your Dopplr contacts.

Meanwhile in real estate, if you type "Tribeca 3 beds" into Trulia you get no results - in fact an error page;

but on DotHomes you not get results, you also get the requisite map and of course the ability to further filter results -- one box, natural language queries and immediately.

Of course it doesn't help that the prices are still sky high but at least you can find what you were looking for :)

These are some early examples of what hopefully will be a more general trend in search. Its not easy to do, but when done right a simple and natural query interface can produce a great user experience which will surely drive transaction volume significantly in critical and high-value verticals. Google did this with web search and I think the innovators in vertical search will make similar UI leaps.

If you have any other great examples, I'd love to hear about them.

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Kindo's day in the sun

Its easy to throw stones at Alexa - and we all have - but sometimes whatever the reason, its nice to have a day in the sun.

This has been a great few weeks for Kindo. Last week they announced seed funding from the technology founders of Skype, me and Robin at TAG and Stefan Glaenzer from Now this week Kindo has sneaked past Geni and Verwandt on Alexa.

So congratulations to Gareth, Nils, Andrew, Demian and all the rest of the really hardworking and dedicated team.

Social networks have fundamentally shifted people's online behavior. There are over a billion people online now and the web is truly global and multi-lingual - it is no longer more than 25% American or English.

When you look at the diversity of social network successes, there are global players (MySpace & Facebook) but also very significant regional (Netlog, Bebo, Hi5, Friendster, Skyrock) and local players (Nasza-klasa and vKontakte). What's amazing of course is that none of these sites really existed more than 3 years ago and now they are the commonest ways for people to spend their time online. In almost every market, networks and search rule and portals are dying or dead.

The most common and fastest-growing online behavior today is to build, understand and communicate through your networks.

We have networks for our friends - our social networks. We have networks for our colleagues (LinkedIn, Xing, Viadeo etc) - our professional networks. Increasingly we will have networks for families - not just sites about my ancestry (family past) but about my living family (family present).

Kindo has only been in the market since late October 2007 but it has made a very fast start.

Recognizing, rather than paying lip-service to the global nature of the web is a lesson we learned at Skype and have seen again at OpenAds. Kindo its already in 14 languages and not just with translations but blogs and a genuine local flavor.

Families can be way too serious and people seem to be really responding to Kindo's sense of fun and the authenticity and sense of fun of a global brand with local sensibility.

The market for family networks is very much just at the beginning, there is a very long way to go as these services reach maturity - but sometimes it nice to have a day in the sun.

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