According to a 2012 survey conducted by the Pew research center, users are more satisfied than ever with the quality of search results, but nine percent still cannot find the information they seek. Nine percent might not sound like much, but when you consider that search is the most popular activity on the internet, that still leaves a sizable market to tap into.
Enter Verbase, a new player in the general search engine space hailing from Hong Kong. Verbase uses Yahoo’s API to gather results, and sorts them using a custom algorithm created by founder Antoine Sorel. He calls it a “user-ranking” algorithm, which basically means results are sorted based on users’ level of engagement rather than just popularity and keyword relevancy. On Google, Sorel says, “You’ll see the most popular results at the top, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the best information.” For example, Verbase will keep track of time spent and the level of interaction with a website instead of just counting hits.
Verbase isn’t the first to attempt a crowdsourced search engine. DuckDuckGo, Blekko, and many more utilize crowdsourced data to some degree, but Sorel says his algorithm combined with Yahoo’s API will return superior results. That is, it will once it starts gaining more traction. For a crowdsourced project to succeed, it needs a crowd. Sorel puts that number at 500,000 searches required for the algorithm to really start kicking in. Verbase seems to be well on its way, garnering 50,000 unique visitors last month alone.
Pros and cons
Verbase features a few other perks to lure in users. No advertisements appear in the search results, although they will eventually along the right side of the page.
Too much advertising on a page will actually lower a website’s ranking. Users can add their own results, which could be useful for new websites. They can also start forum conversations around any keyword, and invite others to take part and add text, video, links to social media, and create live events.
Verbase has a few downsides, though. Anything other than text-based searches is probably better left to Google, such as images. Verbase doesn’t offer any localized searches or results yet, although that is planned for the future. Finally, there’s no live drop down auto-completed results when I start typing in the search bar – a feature I find rather useful on Google.
Can it be done?
The latest beta version of Verbase will be released on October 14. Sorel says the company plans to educate users through marketing and a PR campaign in order to gain more traction. He says the target audience is mainly US general search users who are “frustrated with search results.” But are they frustrated enough to make a switch? With Google and other search engines embedded in our websites, browsers, and phones, Verbase faces a steep uphill battle.
(Editing by Steven Millward)