Move over (a Little), Google Search and Microsoft Bing — Here Comes Kosmix

The Kosmix search system may have little name recognition so far, but co-founder Venky Harinarayan believes its approach to drilling deep into specific topics – or “verticals” – offers an entirely new kind of browsing experience that has been winning users in the U.S., Europe and India.

Kosmix is working to take a seat next to other alternative search efforts, such as Cool, LeapFish and WolframAlpha. It faces a market in which Microsoft and Yahoo have finally come together to combine their web search services in a direct challenge to Google, the elephant in the room with nearly two-thirds of all search-engine traffic.

But Harinarayan is not deterred. “The web has really evolved. Search has not really evolved, however, over the last 10 to 15 years,” he says. That presents an opportunity.

That’s not to say that search engines like Google and Microsoft Bing don’t do a great job. “Search does what it does incredibly well today, and so it is hard to sit here and say, ‘Hey, search is broken,’” Harinarayan acknowledges. But he nevertheless believes “it is going to be hard for the Bings and the Microsofts and the Yahoos of the world” to capture market share against Google without “changing the definition of search.” To win in the search space, “you have to change what search means … or at least do it much better so people say, ‘Hey, yeah this is something completely different.’”

Among the products that Harinarayan’s company has launched are RightHealth — the number-two health information site on the web — and MeeHive, which allows fine-tuned customization of news content. Harinarayan spoke with India Knowledge at Wharton about where online search applications — and Kosmix — are headed in Kosmix: Searching the Web for Content — Not Popularity.

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