Two cents blog

Is There a New, Better Way to Search than Google?

by Paul Cornwell on 15 April 2016

Ever heard of Biz Stone? He is a co-founder of Twitter and is reportedly worth $200m (U.S.).

He’s helped to create and launch Xanga, Odoe, The Obvious Corporation and Medium.

He’s also an investor in tech companies like Square, Nest Labs, Workpop, Lyft and Goodfit.

Stone’s career is impressive and it ranges from tech start ups to directing movies, to his stint at Google, to angel investing.

Stone, along with Evan Williams, was named 2009 Nerd of the Year by GQ magazine, one of the Most Influential People in The World by Time magazine, Entrepreneur of the Decade by Inc. magazine, and one of Vanity Fair‘s Top Ten Most Influential People of the Information Age. Stone was honoured with the International Center for Journalists‘ first Innovation Award in 2010.

He also holds an honourary Doctor of Laws from Babson College, and is a Fellow at Oxford University.

As a Silicon Valley whiz kid, he’s one of those people who’s worth keeping an eye on.

So, when I saw that he was making an appearance at SXSW last month, I made a point of meeting up with him….along with 500, others in a large hall in the Austin Convention Centre.

So what’s he up to these days?

Back in 2013 (a decade in digital years) he turned his attention to a new project and Jelly was created. Jelly was described as a Q & A app for using your social network to get answers to everyday questions.

And in true tech company, start-up spirit, the journey for Jelly hasn’t been easy. Jelly didn’t get much traction in its first two years so Stone and his team launched a new version of it called Super. Super was described as a ‘funky social networking app for sharing things with friends’. It didn’t really take off either.

But being a technopreneur, Stone launched Jelly 2.0 earlier this year. The idea with Jelly 2.0 is that instead of asking people you know a question, the app will find someone who can answer your question. So, it’s still Q & A format, but is effectively crowd-sourcing answers to questions. People answer, rather than an algorithm finding something someone’s written at some time.

When you think about it for a moment, as good as Google is, it often delivers search results that aren’t as specific or as personal as you’d like. Think Tripadvisor results or realestate.com.au popping up as an answer to your search, and you get the picture.

Stone talked about Google’s algorithm based search engine being an old model and one that lacks the human touch.

He then went on to cite an example of he and his wife planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park and taking their 7 year-old. They Google searched ‘Yellowstone trip with a 7 year-old’ and got very limited help with this very specific question. On the third page of the searches he found a blog post that had been written 6 years ago about a trip to Yellowstone with a similar aged child.

Stone then explained that a better search engine could locate someone who’d recently been to Yellowstone with a 7 year-old and offer specific advice like ‘be prepared for your child to be most excited about the fact that the geysers smell like farts’ and ‘be aware that whilst your child will like x, x and x attractions, they’re all at least 40 minutes drive apart, so make sure you take books and games to keep them occupied’.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Will it take off? Who knows.

What is certain is that Stone has form in the tech space and could well be on to something. And it could be something big.

But what is also certain is Google’s stranglehold on search.

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Google won’t give up easily. And if Jelly 2.0 does happen to take off, I bet you a $2 scratchie that Google buys it.

Should interesting and fun to watch.

 

Paul Cornwell is a Managing Director at BCM

 

- Alan on April 15

No doubt Jelly will be swalloped up by Google. Bad puns aside Paul the Q&A format is pretty interesting. It sounds like search organisations like dotmos are kind of in this space too by planning for their search platform to encourage users to add their opinions on topics via curated community tools. All fascinating stuff.

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