Singingfish Grows As Multimedia Search Provider

Looking for audio or video files from across the web? Singingfish has offered its multimedia search engine to help you in this since mid-2000, but the company recently signed a deal to power audio-visual searching in Microsoft’s Windows Media Player client.

The January deal with Microsoft means that Singingfish now provides the multimedia searching capabilities for two of the web’s largest digital media players, since Singingfish is already tied into the RealOne Player, through an agreement signed with Microsoft-rival Real, back in Fall 2001. The distribution deals helped Singingfish pass handling 1 million queries per day at the end of January.

In short, Singingfish has managed to gain a Google-like dominance in providing multimedia search to audio-visual players. But what exactly is the multimedia content that Singingfish provides access to through searches at its own site and through client players?

Types of Multimedia Content Singingfish Can Find

Singingfish describes itself in various ways: “audio video search,” “streaming media search” and “multimedia search” are all terms it uses. The first is most precise. Singingfish lets you locate audio or video files from across the web. It discovers these in the same way that Google locates HTML files, by employing a spider to crawl the web. The company also accepts “feeds,” where content providers tell it directly about the files they have.

Singingfish cannot actually watch or listen to the files it indexes to know what they are about. Instead, it relies mainly on meta data that’s embedded into the files, to understand their content. Just like meta tags for HTML files, multimedia files have meta tags that let their authors indicate titles, descriptions and other information about the files. This information provides important clues to help a multimedia search engine know what’s in the files.

Probably the best known multimedia file format is MP3, a popular way of storing music electronically. Yes, Singingfish does provide the ability to hunt for MP3 music files from across the web. However, the service can also locate QuickTime, RealMedia and Windows Media files, as well. These formats are used to record content such as movie trailers, sporting events highlights, live music events, video news clips and more.

For example, a search for “colin powell” at the Singingfish search engine brings back in the first page of results several video clips of the US Secretary of State speaking, as provided by US Department of State, the BBC and MSNBC.

Unfortunately, there’s no ability to sort results by date, though Singingfish does give a boost to more recent content, to help it rise to the top. Still, to increase the odds of getting content for a particular speech, you’d need to choose your words carefully.

The same is true if you are looking for sporting event information, such as “six nations rugby,” which brought back files relating to the 2002 championships. Instead, “2003 six nations rugby” might bring back more current files, though this didn’t work when I tried — probably because the 2003 series only started this past weekend.

I put Singingfish to work on New Year’s Day, which is always a depressing time for me. That’s because watching the Pasadena Rose Parade every year is a tradition I’ve had to live without since I moved to the UK back in 1997. My new tradition every year is to see I can instead find a live webcast of the event (and so far, no luck).

Singingfish came through for me, sort of. It easily located several Rose Parade webcams backed by Home and Garden Television. Unfortunately, these were cams that showed how floats were constructed in real time. During the parade, all they showed were empty warehouses!

Searching Via Singingfish & Partners It Powers

As mentioned, searching can be done not only at the Singingfish web site but within the Windows Media Player or RealOne Player, if you have either. Any differences between these three?

At the Singingfish site, you’ll have the most control over your search. The advanced search page lets you select the exact file types you want, bitrates, narrow to live feeds, group content by category and to engage a family filter.

What you won’t get is any content promoted on the home page. That can be great, if you want a “pure” multimedia search experience. However, it was nice to see how the RealOne Player’s home screen alerted users to clips of the Daytona 500 or the trailer for Matrix Reloaded. The Windows Media Player also offered similar suggestions and organization of content.

Within the RealOne Player, a search box should be found in the top right-hand screen of the RealOne Guide page — the home screen that should appear in the player, when it loads (You can also go to the RealOne Guide page via your web browser). Using the RealOne Guide’s search brings back results that are nearly identical those you’d receive by doing the same search at Singingfish itself. There are slight differences in ordering, in part because Real content is boosted over other types.

After you search, there’s a “more options” link that appears on the results screen. This gives you access to some advanced features similar to that found on the Singingfish site, but not all of them.

As for Windows Media Player, the deal with Microsoft means Singingfish powers search within version 9 of the player. However, searching is supposed to be backwards compatible to other versions, such as WMP 8, which I use. You should find the ability to search via a box near the top left-hand side of the screen that appears when selecting the Media Guide tab (and you can also go to the site directly via your web browser).

By default, searching Singingfish this way will show you category links above the actual search results. By clicking on these links, you can narrow the results to those that match a particular category, such as being deemed related to “movies,” “entertainment” or “news.” At Singingfish, you can do this also, but only if you first visit the advanced search page.

Aside from offering category links, the results at via the Windows Media Player are also likely to be much different than those at the Singingfish web site. This is because Real and QuickTime content is not included in the results, and family-filtering is enabled, by default (family filtering also happens with Real, as well).

Getting Listed In Singingfish

Enough of finding multimedia content via Singingfish. Here are tips on getting included:

As mentioned, Singingfish does find content by crawling the web. If your content is missing, try using Singingfish’s Submit page. Simply provide your home page, and Singingfish will then spider from that to other pages on your site, seeking out multimedia files.

In addition, Singingfish also accepts content feeds in XML and other formats. This is done on both a free and a paid inclusion basis. To be involved either way, for the moment, fill out the “Singingfish Gold and Silver Candidate Programs Sign-up section” of the submit page. In the near future, more detailed information about free and paid inclusion will also be posted to that page.

Finally, should you NOT want your content included in Singingfish, it does obey robots.txt files, and full instructions can be found on the site’s page about the Singingfish Spider.

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