Webpreneur Stanley K. Burrell, better known as former rapper MC Hammer, is working on a new search engine called WireDoo. His plan to enter the competitive search space pits Hammer against Google, Bing, and other established search engines, though his approach addresses perceived problems the leaders have yet to solve for users.
WireDoo is a “deep search” engine and boasts in its tagline, “Search once and see what’s related.”
Hammer spoke with O’Reilly Media, Inc. correspondent Alex Howard at the Web 2.0 Summit about his aspirations for social search engine WireDoo. He and his cohorts have reportedly been working on what he calls his “pet project,” currently in limited pre-beta, for about two years. They anticipate a December launch date.
Shocked? Don’t be. Hammer has been in the tech game for years.
An early Twitter adopter and tech start-up angel investor, he spoke with Harvard Business School students about social media in 2009. At the time, he told the crowd, “I’m building my social media ecosystem one peg at a time,” as he shared his entrepreneurial and marketing knowledge.
His BurrellTime iPhone app allowed users to keep up with him in real time, while his DanceJam.com site, then in beta, pulled from his experience in entertainment and the requisite advertising involved.
“At the end of the day, there are only so many notes, so many rhymes, so many keys on the keyboard,” Ham said. “The next thing is: who is the best marketer?”
More recently, he spoke with Salesforce.com CEO & Chairman Marc Benioff on social media marketing during the Dreamforce 2011 opening keynote. In that appearance, he shed some light on “leaked” songs/videos and how music industry professionals actually use this practice in beta testing new product through social media feedback. In fact, Hammer’s experience in social media marketing drove his foray into search.
The evolution from musician to tech entrepreneur was a natural move for Hammer; “They go hand in hand,” he said. “When I saw the social tools as they began to emerge – whether it be around video… whether it be about community, ie.: way back to the days of Myspace and then on into Facebook and others – as I saw that, I saw a real opportunity to engage and connect and remove the velvet rope between the musician and his fans, who are really friends and like extended family.”
WireDoo was born of his desire to improve search through relationship-driven searches. He feels that results that go beyond generalities, that give deeper and more relative information, will greatly improve user experience.
For example, a ZIP code search will display basic results on an area, with an area for related content. Within the Related Content section, users will find links to search results on schools, hospitals, homes, and more. Clicking on schools, for example, would bring up a broad subset of links to further information on teacher credentials, marks, student demographics, and more. Each click allows the user to drill further down into specific topics.
Hammer described to Howard how WireDoo works: “The engine crawls and the algorithm are designed in a way to get all the related information to your query, then package it consistently in one environment.” He went on, “It’s kind of thinking the way you would think. If it’s a car… it’s not just about the word ‘car.’ It’s about insurance, it’s about the specs, it’s about mileage, it’s about style. It’s about all these things, so that’s the way it works.”
Depending on how widely WireDoo is adopted, Hammer hints that it could either stand on its own, or another company could incorporate it into their offering to improve search for existing users.
Richard Chavez from leading organic and paid search firm PM Digital believes a partnership approach may be WireDoo’s best chance in a highly competitive space.
“Content providers should be keeping an eye on this. From a content destination, if they’re (WireDoo) able to provide more of an API perspective, that’s where he could get the broadest reach the fastest,” he told Search Engine Watch. “Trying to launch a new brand in this space, there’s a very tough entry to market for that, but he does have a unique value proposition.”
He points to Google Instant as one way existing search engines are trying to meet consumers at the point of decision-making and believes WireDoo just might have the right idea. “It’s interesting and a lot of the things he’s thinking about in terms of bringing about more of a solution by keyword, instead of just results, make a lot of sense.”
Chavez believes customers have matured in search to the point that, more often than not, they know what they want and are more comfortable that they can find what they need directly. “It looks like MC Hammer is trying to capture all of that data in one holistic solution. If he thinks of it from a partnership perspective rather than a brand standoff, he might have a fighting chance.”
As Steve Ballmer himself noted recently, the two leaders in U.S. search really aren’t all that different, despite Bing’s initial ambition as a “decision engine.” Google has a huge market share now, but could a different type of search engine steal enough thunder from each of them to change the game?
Sign up at WireDoo.com to participate in beta testing as it becomes available. What do you think of Hammer’s initiative? Let us know in the comments section.