Vivisimo Starts Search Engine Based on Clustering

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Vivisimo launched a search engine yesterday that uses clustering technology to organize results.


Vivisimo, Pittsburgh, a 4-year-old company founded by Carnegie Mellon computer scientists, sells search technology to corporations. Clusty.com is the consumer search engine the company built.


Unlike Google, which uses a page-ranking formula to sort Web pages, Clusty groups results into themes for users to cut through the reams of Web pages typically returned by search engines. It draws its search index from various sources, including LookSmart's Wisenut, BizRate and Lycos.


Clusty displays paid search ads through Yahoo's Overture Services.


Clustering is designed to help users find what they seek by sorting results into main topics based on an analysis of the text on Web pages. For example, a search for "Lance Armstrong" puts Web results into folders like photos, Lance Armstrong Foundation, cycling team and posters. Clusty can organize folders based on topics, sources or Internet addresses. The folders are ranked by the number of results per topic and their rank in the index from which they were drawn.


Clusty's launch comes less than a month after Amazon unveiled its own search engine, A9.com, which combines Web search with personalization features based on user profiles.


Each search upstart invariably is labeled a potential rival to Google, which has dominated search for the past few years. Google established its lead by developing Page Rank, a search technology that sorts Web pages based on their popularity. The basic idea is that instead of editors or Web page metatags determining relevance, search engines should look to the number of links a page gets.


"They solve the problem of ranking," said Raul Valdes-Perez, Vivisimo's CEO. "The next step is what you do with this richness of this information that comes back."


Google's success has drawn other search rivals. Yahoo dumped Google in favor of its own search technology last year after spending $2 billion acquiring search companies. MSN, which uses Yahoo's search technology, plans to roll out its own Web search engine by mid-2005. Ask Jeeves offers its Teoma crawler, which ranks search results by looking for communities online in which "authority" Web sites point to the most relevant sites.


"With communities, you're able to extract meaning beyond text," said Apostolos Gerasoulis, a founder of Teoma.


In addition to Web search, Clusty has tabs to search shopping, news, blogs, images, online encyclopedia Wikipedia and gossip. Clusty also has an option for customizing the search engine with tabs for other information sources.


Valdes-Perez said Vivisimo did not plan to advertise Clusty. The company is open to licensing the clustering technology to search engines.


"We plan to follow the model Google had in its early days, by word of mouth," he said.


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