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Accoona Launches, But Isn't Ready for Prime Time

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New search engine Accoona launched with great fanfare last night, but hold the applause. It's a promising start, but testing shows Accoona isn't yet ready to play ball in the big leagues.

It's always exciting to try out new search tools. After spending some time with Accoona, I was disappointed. However, Accoona is a brand new service and deserves time to grow and hopefully improve.

Accoona is based in New Jersey, though China Daily Information, the largest English language web site in China, owns a controlling interest in the company. The company touts its artificial intelligence technologies as "an important part of our intellectual property."

Accoona is running its own web crawler. This means that we now have another unique web index, which is always welcome. How large is the database? Accoona CEO Stuart Kauder refused to reveal a total page count, nor did he say how often the database is updated other than that it's done "regularly."

The search interface is sparse, with just a search box and three radio buttons visible. These buttons allow the searcher to run a web search, a business directory search, or combine web search and business search results, if business information is available.

Boolean connectors as well as several other pieces of advanced search syntax (title:, link:, etc.) are available.

Result pages also look like what we see elsewhere (10 results per page) with paid listings in the right column. Accoona's paid listings are provided by Overture.

Here's a result page for the query museums history chicago. Less than stellar relevance, especially compared to what others provide. Again, it's difficult to judge an engine with just a few sample queries but we need to start somewhere.

Directly above the result list are checkboxes showing each of your search terms. These allow you to invoke what Accoona calls a "SuperTarget," using artificial intelligence to tweak the weights of specific search term(s). In other words, which term(s) are most or least important in the query string?

When I "supertargetted" the terms Chicago and history my results did improve but still included several museums located nowhere near Chicago. "SuperTargetting" has the potential to be useful for the advanced searcher but will typical searcher take the time to do this?

Accoona also provides basic company information (Business Profiles) for some listings merged into web results. Information comes from a number of sources but CEO Kauder wouldn't reveal precisely what these sources are. He did say some of it comes from Yahoo and China Business Information. The Accoona web site says it has information on 32 million companies across the globe, including listings for over 5 million companies in China.

Business Profiles are denoted on a search results page by a clickable icon next to the page title. It's also possible to restrict search to pages with business information by selecting "Business Profiles" next to the search box.

Clicking the icon open a information box with company name, address, telephone number, contact info, sales volume and number of employees.

Here's a search for United Airlines. Several UAL domains are listed, all with the same business profile content. The listing for the company's primary United.com web site is not found in the first thirty results.

However, this search for UAL has the United homepage and the company CEO listed in the business profile. It would be useful in future releases if you could limit your search to specific fields in a business profile record. It would also be useful if Accoona displayed how current this information is and whether it was verified.

Webmasters will be happy to know that a site submit form is available along with a form to update business information that's already in the Accoona database.

What's with the goofy name? According to a company spokesperson, Accoona is derived from the famous scene from the movie "The Lion King," singing the praises of "hakuna matata," or "no worries."

Despite Accoona's rough edges, it's good to have another open web crawler out there. As Danny Sullivan says it's another unique voice. The idea of merging basic business information with web content also could be a real time saver.

However, Accoona will need to make some significant improvements to gain traction with searchers who habitually use their favorite search engine. I plan to monitor Accoona over the next few months and will report back in SearchDay and on the Search Engine Watch Blog.

Want to discuss or comment on this story? Join the A New Search Engine, Not Ready for Prime Time discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums.

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