Start-up retrofits search for IM

Kozoru hopes to make a name for itself with highly selective search responses in instant messaging.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
3 min read
Search can be put into instant messaging, says start-up Kozoru, as long as you eliminate a lot of the excess stuff.

The Overland, Kan.-based company has devised a service that allows consumers to conduct searches from inside a chat client.

The trick is that consumers don't get 19 pages of search results in response to a query, a wad of data that would make the average avatar roll his or her eyes in resignation.

Instead, users select their sources in advance--Wikipedia, news sites, shopping sites, etc. Kozoru then conducts a general search on one of the major search engines, extracts the relevant links from the preselected sources, and delivers them into the chat window.

"Google is research. This is search," said Michael Farmer, director of strategic partnerships for the company. "You can enter up to 25 sites to search. Instead of (link-ranking formula) PageRank determining relevance, I decide."

The search results are also tweaked for greater functionality. A search on "Tickets Kansas City Royals Game" on Google during a demonstration came up with a list of places to buy tickets, including Ticketmaster about halfway down the page.

The Kozoru response brought up a link to Ticketmaster, as well as the time and date of the next game and the price range on tickets.

Most likely, users will primarily use this while on a Treo handheld or some other mobile device, Farmer said.

Kozoru will launch a public beta of the service on June 5. Right now, it is compatible only with AOL's AIM service, but the company expects its technology to work with chat clients from Yahoo, MSN, Google and Jabber.

A decade ago, search engines competed over who had the greatest breadth and depth on the Internet. Now, a new generation of companies is competing over who can bring you the least amount of dross. ZoomInfo, for instance, has created a search service that will scour the Web for potential job candidates and bring users only relevant information, such as current occupation, title and educational background.

Yahoo and Google have both created answer services. The concept behind these services is that, while general searches can find the information, few want to invest the time to collate it.

Refining mobile search
The premise behind Kozoru's BYOMS (build your own mobile search) technology is that consumers looking for something while in instant messenger want to act on the information: find out the latest weather forecast, settle a bar bet over when Teddy Roosevelt was first elected or read a news story someone on the train just mentioned.

On a PC, individuals often will go straight to their usual source, or go to a search engine and then click the links that come from their usual trusted source. Kozoru essentially cuts out a few hops and reformats the information to fit the smaller format.

A user's different BYOMSes are listed as buddies in their messaging client and each BYOMS can contain a distinct list of search sites. Thus, the "News" buddy will search only on selected news sites while "Impulse Buys" will list shopping sites.

For Web publishers, the technology also offers a way around search engine tyranny, Farmer asserted. If sites promote themselves using Kozoru's technology, users would be more likely to include those sites in their BYOMS listings.

So how will the company make money? Farmer (who invented a self-inflating life jacket at his previous company) was a bit vague on that. It may come from partnerships, ad revenue or revenue sharing. The company ultimately may also get acquired, he indicated.