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People Search Engine, Zoom Info, Adds New Services and Features

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ZoomInfo, the Boston-based, privately-held "people search" company that we've blogged about several times and Chris wrote a SearchDay overview about, is adding a some new features to their service today.

In a nutshell, ZoomInfo finds info about people found on the open web and uses it to build profiles or dossiers if you prefer using artificial intelligence. ZoomInfo offers both free ad-supported services as well as fee-based services (more features) for companies and individuals called Power Search.

ZoomInfo was around for many years when it was known as Eliyon. The name change took place in March.

OK, let's take a look at what's new from ZoomInfo.

+ Larger Database. More than 27 million profiles are now available. That's up from about 25 million.

+ Several types of accounts are now available. Each offering different services. The free or basic service offers, "allows you to create, edit, and monitor the popularity of your web summary, as well as reach out and contact other people you find in ZoomInfo." The monthly premium subscription for $49.95 offers full access, "to all of ZoomInfo's Premium features whenever you need them." They also offer a weekly full access option for $19.95.

+ Their new "relationship search engine" that according to the company, eliminates, or at least decrease, the need to build a network manually and mine it for several degrees of connections to locate and communicate with your target."

Pardon the cliche, but only time will tell with this one.

People Search
Searching for people is easy, just enter a name and some additional info (if known) and click search. Here's my profile. Not bad. But spending some time with the database will show that the quality of profiles truly varies from person to person. To build my profile you'll see that ZoomInfo used 801 references from the web. Btw, all of these pages are cached locally on ZoomInfo servers. Which once again illustrates that just getting a page removed from the Google cache doesn't mean it's no longer available somewhere on the web.

Good News
The good news is that I have seen a noticeable improvement in Zoom's technology in the past couple of years. However, it's still FAR FROM perfect or even close to it and as a long way to go. One issue is what's called "authority control" and without a well organized and maintained authority file (admittedly easier said than done) you'll find many entries that MIGHT be for the same person. It's hard to tell and can make a thorough search a challenge. It's possible to merge various profiles about yourself into one. If you want claim several listings it will require a credit card number but you WILL NOT be charged. It's definitely a caveat emptor situation with ZoomInfo but you already know that about many web tools.

Company Search
I've also noticed today that ZoomInfo is now offering a new "company search" option. A search for Google found the folks in Mt. View. To get a list of competitors, you're required to have a paid subscription. I also found an entry for a company named Google Groups that's listed as a company in Michigan. Hmmm. (-:. The url listed took me to a an ad page that had nothing to do with Google. Currency is also an issue. Here's the company page for Ask Jeeves but no mention of the acquisition by IAC and their new stock ticker. The same is true for our site. No mention of our old or new ownership, no mention of Danny as the person in charge, etc. Topix.net CEO Rich Skrenta is listed but Chris Tolles, VP of Sales and Marketing and Bob Truel, a Co-Founder are not. They are listed on the company site. However, Pam McKenzie, a restaurant owner in Florida is a key member of the company? No, she's not.

What about Yahoo? It lists Irene Rosenfeld and Charles Koch as Chairman and Chief Executive Officers along with Terry Semel (Yahoo's real CEO) Well, Ms. Rosenfeld is the Chairman and CEO of Frito-Lay and Mr. Koch is the person in charge at Koch Industries.

So, just like the rest of ZoomInfo and other reference tools, let's be careful out there. I like the idea of the company profiles but currency and accuracy are ESSENTIAL to make them useful and trustworth. At this point, they need work.

As I mentioned earlier, ZoomInfo encourages users to claim their personal profile, edit it, correct it, etc. A company spokesperson told me that tens of thousands have done so. Also, I'm unable to figure out what can stop a person from claiming another's profile by simply getting a free email address from one of many services and registering as that person?

So, what else does a new ZoomInfo results page offer. Again, let's use my profile.

+ Below my name, you'll spot an add to colleagues box.
"Adding friends & colleagues to your Web Summary is a great way to build your professional network and help you be found." If you had me, I'll get an email allowing me to confirm or deny the request. Yes, it's ZoomInfo the social networking service. Free.

+ Next to that button, a provide feedback button. Feel like sending the person a note. If you're a registered user you can. Free.

Now, to the right side of a profile page.

+ An option to have updates delivered via RSS

+ You'll see a "Keyword Search" box, to access this function and run keyword searches on these terms, you'll need a paid subscription.

+ Below that, a list (beta) of people that ZoomInfo says I'm colleagues with. I personally know several of these people like Chris Sherman (-:, Phil Bradley, Peter Scott, Steven Bell, and Herbert Van De Sompel. Overall, not a bad list at all. Primarily people that run in the library and search circles. Of course, it can't list every colleague but this is a good start on what could be a powerful tool in the future. Why someone from the World Wildlife Fund Inc is listed as a colleague is beyond me. The same goes for Thomas J. Michalak, the Executive Director of the Harvard Business School. I'm honored to be listed as one of his colleagues but I've never met the man, spoke at Harvard, or attended the B-School. My mom will be happy.

Paid listings on ZoomInfo are powered by Yahoo. People search on Business.com is powered by ZoomInfo. Additonally, Zoom has announced content deals with Bnet.com and SimplyHired.com.

As I said earlier, improvements are being made at ZoomInfo but they still have plenty of room to move forward to make it a must use research tool.

Postscript: In his March article about ZoomInfo, Chris touches on privacy issues.

What about privacy issues? The information ZoomInfo has collected is all freely available on the web. The company doesn't buy data from information brokers or other sources. And the focus on professional and educational details, rather than personal information, combined with a straightforward privacy policy, should alleviate most concerns.

Postscript 2: Want some stats about the makeup of the ZoomInfo database? Visit this page.

Postscript 3: Full news release is available here.


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