Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He a Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He also served as The Next Web’s blog’s first blogger and Editor in Chief, back in 2008. At De Correspondent, Ernst-Jan serves as publisher, fostering the expansion of the platform.
Yes, I’ve again discovered a new search application that tickled my interest. It’s called Surf Canyon and it specifies your search results by offering three relevant links. After downloading a browser extension, Surf Canyon shows a bull’s eye behind a search result. When clicking on it, Surf Canyon gives you three suggestions within the search page itself. So it’s basically helps you to find relevant results in the ever growing amount of rubbish content on the web.
These days, new search apps and services popping up everywhere so you gotta offer something special if you want to get noticed by the crowd. So I decided to test the pitching skills of Surf Canyon’s CEO Mark Cramer. What is his service going to add?
Cramer: “Innovation is very strong at the moment. There are literally thousands of different search-related websites right now. We certainly fit into that trend, however, our technology – real-time personalization – and implementation – client-side browser extension – are, we believe, innovative and powerful.”
So how does Surf Canyon fit into the future of search? Cramer: “We believe strongly in implicit personalization. Clustering, query suggestions, visualization and universal search will certainly be very important, however, as the quantity of content on the Internet explodes, it is becoming increasingly difficult to access all of that information with two- and three-word queries. Users could enter more keywords, either suggested or not, but this can be difficult, tedious and often eliminates potentially relevant documents. Therefore, something is needed to get a better understanding of the user’s intent beyond the query.”
And Surf Canyon believes to have found that. Instead of looking at the surfing history, Surf Canyon focuses on real-time behavior. “This behavior gives very strong signals as to the user’s ‘at the moment’ intent, which is potentially a much more important indicator of relevancy”, Cramer explains. “These indicators of relevancy are imperative since the ambiguous nature of queries makes it virtually impossible to put all of the relevant results on page one. By disambiguating the user’s intent post-query, we enable access to a much greater quantity of information by automating the process of digging out relevant results.”
Apart from it’s new approach on search personalization, I also like the international mindset of Cramer and his team. Most US-based start-ups just focus on the huge home market, yet Surf Canyon works in 13 different languages. And that immediately pays off, since the search service is pretty big in France, Cramer says. Why is that?
“The major reason we’ve got so much traction in France probably has to do with the excellent coverage we’ve received there. We got nice reviews at Outils Froids and Journalistiques. But most important was the review on Rue89. It helps when somebody compares you to Google in an article entitled “Welcome to the 3rd Age of Search”.
I think other US-based start-ups can learn from Surf Canyon’s approach. As you can tell, offering European languages definitely works when your service is relevant for Europe. So yes, it might be worth the effort and money to hire some French or German students.
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