Groxis's Visualized Search Goes To The Web - InformationWeek

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Groxis's Visualized Search Goes To The Web

The company plans to move to the web many of its desktop-application features, which include access to six different search engines and online retailer, and the ability to organize files in a PC's hard drive into visual clusters.

Groxis Inc. has taken its desktop software for graphically displaying search results to the web, hoping to expand its use and cash in on the growing market for paid-search advertising.

For the last couple of years, the San Francisco company's Grokker application has been available only for the desktop. As of this week, however, the "search visualization" product is available as a web service powered by Yahoo Inc.'s search engine.

Rather than display search results in text lists, Grokker divides results into categories that are displayed as circles containing subcategories in smaller circles or squares. Clicking on any circle or square expands the shape to show its contents.

For example, typing in "nanotechnology" will display a visual cluster for each of several categories, including molecular manufacturing, national nanotechnology, industrial revolution, and science and technology.

Passing a mouse cursor over geometric shapes representing a link will show a balloon that gives a summary of the link's contents. The link is displayed on the right side of the visual clusters. The ability to preview content before going to a web page means a user can find what they want first, Groxis says.

Groxis has labeled its web product a "demo" to indicate that the service is still under development.

"We want to make sure we set people's expectations that this isn't all there is to Grokker," R.J. Pittman, chief executive and founder of Groxis, said.

The company plans to move to the web many of the desktop-application features, which include access to six different search engines and online retailer, and the ability to organize files in a PC's hard drive into visual clusters.

What hasn't been decided is whether the company would eventually adopt a web-only strategy, offering a version of the service at no charge and another on a subscription basis. In the meantime, the company intends to provide full support for the desktop product, which is in use in enterprises and research and educational organizations. The company claims there has been a million downloads of its desktop application.

Where the company heads with the web product will depend on the information it gathers from visitors at the Grokker site.

"We're going to continue to cull that market intelligence into a strategy," Pittman said.

One revenue source the company has already tapped into is paid search. Listed on the right side of Grokker clusters are sponsored links from Yahoo, which can change as a person drills down into subcategories. For example, clicking on the "tickets" subcategory in a search for the rock band U2 delivers a list of sponsored links where concert tickets are available.

Pittman claims that tying ads to categories and subcategories increases the chance of people clicking on the sponsored links by 50 percent, when compared with the average for the search industry.

So-called contextual search is the "way to go in consumer cyberspace," Susan Feldman, analyst for International Data Corp., said.

"What (Groxis) is offering is targeted advertising, and the more targeted the ad, the more successful it is," Feldman said.

Moving Grokker to the web is also expected to build wider brand recognition, than the software has achieved through enterprise and educational sales.

"The problem is an IT department is unlikely to put anything on the desktop unless there's a huge demand," Feldman said. "When you move a promising application to the web, then there are lots of people willingly to look at it. Anybody can use it without jeopardizing any of the files on their desktop or servers."

Groxis also hopes to move into social networking with Grokker by making it easy for people to organize searches into customized clusters that can be stored on the company's server and shared. In addition, the company wants people to post links to their clusters on web pages and blogs.

The company has some collaboration features today. Grokker results can be e-mailed, and people can build their own clusters, which can be stored on Groxis's server for 14 days, before they are permanently deleted from the company's system.

Groxis expects to launch a major upgrade of the web product by early fall.

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