Four Houston entrepreneurs have launched a search engine that they hope will challenge the likes of Google and Yahoo, which dominate the Internet. Frustrated with the results they get from other search engines, Neal Verma, founder and chief executive officer of iRazoo (www.irazoo.com), and three friends with technology backgrounds have spent their evenings and weekends—and an undisclosed amount of money—over the last eight months developing iRazoo.
Even though 97% of Internet searches are done on Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask and Time Warner, according to comScore, there are hundreds of smaller search engines. Newcomers keep trying as there is a lot of money to be made, said James Lamberti, senior vice-president for comScore, which measures Web usage and ranks search engines by use. In the US alone, companies spend $17 billion (Rs69,700 crore) a year on online advertising, and 40% of that is spent on search engine sites, he said.
In the technology world, where paradigms can change faster than Google can find 63.5 million hits for “monkey,” Verma pointed to that top competitor as evidence that iRazoo can succeed. “Google may dominate now, but four years ago nobody even knew about Google except to laugh about the name,” he said.
Last year, google—with a small “g”—knew it had arrived when it became an official dictionary entry. The iRazoo team can dream of the day when its search engine makes the dictionary, but it could live with one of its targets taking notice and paying them a few million bucks for iRazoo.com. “Either way is fine with us,” said Verma. For now, they need to prove their site’s features will appeal to users and return better search results.
Users can recommend sites that come up in their searches. If a link was useful, a user can vote to recommend it. If not, the user can vote against it. Sites that get good recommendations will show up at the top of future searches. Sites that get more “no” votes than “yes” votes eventually will be dropped.
Users earn points every time they vote. When they earn enough points, they can redeem these for digital cameras, iPods and other gadgets. Each recommendation earns two points, and an iPod Shuffle costs 58,000 points.
When users search for a term, iRazoo puts a thumbnail screenshot of the site next to the search result, allowing users to preview the page before linking.
To prevent users from manipulating the system—sometimes known as “Google-bombing”—iRazoo requires users to log in—and they can only recommend a particular site once, Verma said. The iRazoo site also tracks users by the unique address on their computers, and one user can only vote for a site once per computer, Verma said. Depending on recommendations can be risky because the site can’t account for how smart users are, said Scott Hendison, an Internet consultant specializing in search engine marketing and optimization—the practice of getting one group’s site to come up higher in search results than another.
Search engines rely on algorithms—mathematical formulas—to find the best search results. Basically, the engine looks for keywords on sites across the Web.
As Internet marketing has evolved, people such as Hendison have figured out ways to get their clients’ sites listed higher in search results on popular search engines, in turn driving traffic to their sites. Todd Mintz, a search engine marketing consultant, said the algorithms’ recommendations are better than those of strangers. “The Google or Yahoo algorithm may not be perfect, but I’d trust them more than someone I don’t know,” he said.