Will A Different Approach to Search Work?

Google dominates search. Sure, there’s a thing called Bing and a few other choices out there, but everything ends up being the blue and purple link thing curated mostly by machines.

In an effort to experiment with a different approach, we recently led an AngelList syndicated investment in one potential search challenger, a Kansas City based startup called Leap.it who is taking a different approach based on the belief that machine-based algorithms can only get you so far. They hypothesize that by injecting social and real-time data, along with interactions with real people, your search results become much better.

When you first visit Leap.it you will immediately notice that they completely do away with search lists. Instead, their search results are presented in cards that include web, video, social, and image previews.

What I find most compelling are Leap.it Perspectives. With Leap.it, anyone can collect, collaborate, and share results on any subject and then have them show in future, related search results.  I have a few of my own Perspectives that highlight my background:

If you find something missing from any of these different perspectives, you can add to the perspective once you’ve logged in.

Fundamentally, Leap.it is trying to integrate the notion of search directly with the real-time web and the extended social network faciliated by services like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Give it a try, create a perspective, and tell me what you think of it.

  • J franta

    it’s interesting, using leap I found a site related to our open source platform that isn’t in google. (although I expect it’s not in google because it has relatively zero content to be worth linking to). I’m skeptical though that users could maintain curration as good for any abstract query than google can in an automated topic-neutral sense all the way through the query curve. Maybe for topics in the fat tail it could have more value than google, like for really important and popular topics. Not sure callng it a search engine is really the best description of that though, most people don’t think or know what type of topic they’re looking for before they search. They just type it. I like the tile search interface, but I imagine that it’s not much of a differentiator by itself. I guess it depends if you expect people to use it via the search box, or it’s more like quora or wikipedia where a small # of people create the best topics and most people are consumers via subscribing to a feed in their social network. What topics or perspectives would benefit more dispropritionately from having this visual type of exploration? Training, buying stuff, walking through topical stories like news? I don’t know, I guess it depends on where the intersection is between googles weakness and socials strength. I looked at their about page and right now it appears the definition is just “better”, and that visual is better… but maybe there’s more not on the site? Also maybe it’s just the font but it kind of reminds me of buzz feed with cleaner interface. hope that helps.

    • Thanks for your input, J. Hard to argue your point, re: abstract query through the query curve, as coverage becomes the issue. But for queries in ‘fat tail’, I think we all agree could use some perspective (curation) & conversational context (social). We are seeing a significant amount of interest around visually exploring real-time and/or near real-time web results. This is precisely our area of algorithmic focus: apply temporal relevance to static web search objects based on signal processing from social media. Initially, this is predominantly based on twitter’s stream. Not only does is a meta real-time search relevant to users, it also happens to be strategic gap with Google: http://searchengineland.com/googles-matt-cutts-facebook-twitter-pages-are-treated-like-any-other-web-page-on-the-internet-182370

      • J franta

        Sure mike np. I understand what you’re saying. Maybe I’m not asking this in the right way but whats the user neumonic to remind myself the part of the fat tail that I’m missing out if I’m not doing in leap.it? i can tell you i try all the search engines occasionally but using google is the habit. except maybe if there’s some specific area I know I’m missing out. any guidance here on leap is appreciated…

  • I like. In particular, the choice small fonts and scaled down images is a good one to allow packing info on the screen. Its also my criticism. The good thing about Google/Bing/et. Al. (since they all present the info very similarly) is that they are concise and easy to scan. That includes two elements. First, the text is concise, one sentence or two to give you enuff to tell where the link is taking you. Second, its a single column so you can scan quickly in a simple downward visual stroke. While I like the use of images, the spread of them in (5 on my display) across the horizontal makes it harder to scan quickly, specially since the vertical heights are all different. I’d like an option to display it as a single column river.

  • Brian Kellner

    I like the general search results better than the perspective. The test search I did (for a computer game) had a nice set of related links, a blog post from today, the Wikipedia page, and the game’s web site in the top left corner. It felt like a natural relevance scan out from that corner, and as I drifted away from the corner, I felt like I was moving into “browse mode”.
    The “Brad Feld – Investor” page had two posts with broken images in the top left corner. The first date I could see was from 2010. On the web, I correlate old with wrong. It may actually be the most relevant – or it may be that I’m not supposed to expect the most relevant in the top left. But I had the feeling of wanting some order applied to the cards and didn’t pick it up naturally. I think my other searching has taught me that if I don’t see what I want in the first 3 – 5 things, I should try a different search. So perhaps a perspective works even better for someone like me if there’s a “best bets” section that can’t hold more than 3- 5 things.

    • Brian: Thanks for the heads up on the several image issues for the Feld Investor perspective. Thats on me, as I created the perspective a while ago, and based on an update to our image search integration, I should have updated the perspective. Should be corrected now.

  • Xiaohua Yi

    It’s an interesting idea to enhance search with input from social network and it is certainly unique to group results through “perspectives.” While it seems hard to image now, some newer version of “yellow books” will eventually replace search engines. Tried “Bill Gates” with leap.it but the perspectives did not include “philanthropist” and “business leader” as expected. I guess the analysis is still being improved.

  • JamesHRH

    Perspective is the highest value search result, excepting search results that are tied to IRW emergencies.

    This approach is not search: there is no spider, no index and search box UI.

    There is a way to search for perspective: this is not it.

    • JamesHRH, We appreciate the opinion and insight. We hope as we continue to grow and improve that we get an opportunity to change your mind!

      • JamesHRH

        Mike – you are doing a lot of interesting things (by definition, if Brad is involved) & I give you Big Ups for replying to my post. Its not personal, it market organizational – I don’t think you are doing search.

        I did not quite see the perspective side, during my brief usage, FWIW.

        I am a label person, in that I help startups find their market fit and knowing what you are is the first step on that journey (and not knowing where you are can hold you up a long time).

        So, I think that it is important to figure out what market you are in or, as one school of thought puts it ‘who is the enemy? / who are we trying to take customers from? / what do our customers STOP doing when they start doing our thing?

        You seem to be building a segmented feed for blogging, would be my take.

  • Just agreat search. I typed in “Museum Planet” and many of our iPad tours came up. Not all but many. A great start. Much better pictorial result than word based Google. But do they no harm? And are they landing their jets on Government airports using reduced price gas? If not kudos to them. As I said kudos to them.

  • Bob Main

    What a great way to display searches. Made me think of something I saw in Boulder a few years ago. pogodo.com

  • It’s innovative.

    I like the cards layout — they may be onto something.

    Old habits die hard though, and I’m curious to see whether I’ll be drawn back to it *naturally* in the next few weeks; or shall I simply stick to Google? That’ll be the real test.

    I must say it’s made an impact on me where almost nothing else new does these days.

    What blew me away is when searching for my own startup — which I won’t name in this comment — the results were *magnitudes* better than Google’s.

    The integration with LinkedIn was flawless which, in it’s own right, says something about the team.

    In short, they’ve accomplished a real feat just to get it to that point. Will that be enough? That is the multi-million dollar question.

    • Mario: glad you like it! Appreciate the sentiments, re: searching your startup v. Google. We encourage the Coke v. Pepsi challenge, or in our case, the L.it v. Goog challenge. Concerning, your comment ‘old habits die hard’: we are well aware that many search startups have failed trying to compete with Google on the front door of search, hence why we are focused on creating a ‘search network’. Furthermore, in the not too distant future, consumers will be able to distribute Leap.it Perspective (curated search page) anywhere they choose.

  • It’s always interesting to see new takes on mature product categories, and I like the card interface. Having said that, I feel like this is a product in search of a need. I don’t think “search with pictures” is enough. Maybe search for celebrities or something like that? I’m not sure I get the point of the perspective either. Is it like a search-driven Pinterest? On a more detailed note, given the card interface, multiple results from the same site (Flickr, LinkedIn, etc.) often read like duplicates to me, even if they aren’t exactly.