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Is It Really Personalized Search?

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Search is hot -- and even hotter is the idea of search personalization. This is where by knowing more about you, a search engine may potentially provide better results because it understands your preferences.

To date, the only released service I know of that's actually actively doing serious search personalization is Eurekster, which I wrote about back in January. It's a social networking service that lets who you know influence what you see in search results.

Social networking services are also hot. Now do the math:

social network
X
search
X
search personalization
=
super hot!

That equation means you can expect to hear more about social networking services combined with search. But be wary -- this doesn't mean that true search personalization is offered.

Here are two recent examples: SocialGrid.com and Tickle. Both are social networks. Both have some search features. But neither does anything like Eurekster is doing. Search personalization is not a reality with them.

From this InternetNews.com write-up, SocialGrid.com apparently will create a web page for you that describes your interests and background. Then, it will let you use Google to search against just these pages to find a match. No personalization or refinement of Google results appears to be happening.

Despite the motto of "Transforming Google into a Free Dating Service and Social Network," it doesn't appear that Google is actively involved in SocialGrid. Rather, the company may be using the Google API or simply providing a custom form-based interface into Google.

Over at Tickle, a Reuters report suggests that Tickle has personalized search results, thanks to a partnership with Ask Jeeves. In reality, Tickle confirmed for me that a search lets you hit two entirely different databases:

  • You can search the web and get back Teoma-powered Ask Jeeves results at Tickle. These are not reranked or influenced by those who you know in your social network at Tickle.
  • You can search "People Results" at Tickle and find members who have personal details that match what you are searching for. Want to find Star Trek fans who are Tickle members? Enter those words into People Search, and that's what it aims to do.

Expect to hear about a string of what I'd dub "social search" or "personalized search" sites spring up in the coming months, especially in the wake of Google's IPO plans. Everyone will want on the search bandwagon.

Such services may be perfectly fine for what they provide, so certainly do check out places like SocialGrid and Tickle. Just be wary that many of these new sites you will be hearing about may not actually be dishing up personalized search results.

Heck, not even Google's own Orkut social network service is doing that, yet!

Search Headlines

NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

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