Looksmart Acquires Furl.net

Looksmart has thrown its hat into the “personal web” ring, with the acquisition of Furl.net, a web page clipping and archiving service.

Like the other web research managers that I’ve reviewed in the past few months, Furl allows you to save the full text of web pages in your own personal archive. You can annotate pages, organize them into folders, and most importantly, search the contents of your archive to locate information that you’ve saved.

Looksmart’s purchase of Furl provides the resources to allow further development and enhancements to the service, according to Mike Giles, founder of Furl.net. Today Furl expanded the storage available to 5 gigabytes per user, enough to store tens of thousands of web pages.

Giles says he envisions Furl ultimately becoming a repository for just about any type of content — email, word processing documents, notes — whatever you want to store and search. Rather than being desktop-based, such as the new Copernic Desktop, Furl serves as an online repository, accessible through any Internet connected computer.

“Furl is really about personal search and about saving data,” said Giles. “There’s been so much focus on search on the internet, and very little emphasis on what you do with that data when you find it.”

Other planned enhancements include the addition of web search into the Furl interface, as well as the ability to search the archives of other Furl users. Currently, search is limited to your own archive of web pages.

Looksmart also plans to leverage Furl users’ behavior to create new types of relevance algorithms for web search. “We will use the information that we’re gleaning from people’s furling activities to create a new ranking methodology,” said Kevin Krim, vice president of Web properties for LookSmart. This new approach will be similar to Google’s PageRank, but rather than using the link structure of the web to determine the importance of the document, searcher behavior will be paramount.

“Every person who furls a page is casting a vote for it,” said Krim. “We’ll be taking the masses’ votes instead of just the webmasters’ votes.”

Furl will remain a free service, though Looksmart plans to incorporate targeted contextual ads into furled content. Krim says that 95% of Looksmart’s revenue is now coming from its advertisers, and the acquisition of Furl fits quite well with its strategy of focusing on targeted, niche applications as delivery platforms for ads.

Separately, Looksmart has integrated web search into its NetNanny 5.1 web filtering software. The search engine is based on a LookSmart-powered search index, presumably drawing from the Wisenut crawler the company purchased several years ago.

Those of you needing filtering software may want to try a test drive with the free 15 day trial. Before you do, be sure to read Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg’s recent review comparing NetNanny, CyberPatrol and FilterLogix. According to Mossberg, “Net Nanny failed to block some blatantly inappropriate Web pages, so we can’t recommend it.”

Want to discuss or comment on this story? Join the LookSmart buys Furl? discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums.

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