By Phil Butler

Who Wants to Be Your Discovery Platform Now?

By Phil Butler

woriologo2With a search startup on every corner, and none beating Google’s ramparts down yet, why would anyone develop another variant? Well, because of the potential gain, obviously. Worio is a startup beta applying meta search and suggestion to grab a piece of the market. This service returns results from Google, Yahoo! and Live, while simultaneously interpreting user queries for further discovery. This is no new concept, but Worio aims to be your “discovery platform”, and not just a search engine.

Using Meta search, suggestion via tagging and behavior, combined with social bookmarking, Worio does target some weaknesses of conventional search. Refined filtering (human plus correlative), with sharing and organization, make for powerful tools, but subjective relevance and interactivity are not enough. Microsoft’s Powerset has already engaged these effectively, while Search Wikia interjects the ultimate (human) interactive/suggestive alternative. Worio’s discovery tools will have to be extraordinary to engage even these players.

Worio Means – Web of Research

Worio’s interface is simple and efficient much like that of Powerset’s in its organizational aspects. Basic search allows users to toggle between individual or all engines easily, and the results are satisfactory. These searches are accomplished in the left pane, while discovery of recommendations is performed in the right pane of the UI.

Left pane with save input interface

Left pane with save input interface

As you can see (above and below) for the particular query “SitePoint”, Worio returns relevant results via meta, while suggesting alternatives for saving, sharing or surfing. Other features combined with this “reorganizing/suggestive” aspects make Worio useful and fun. Currently however, organizing saved searches appears to be nothing more than simple, searchable bookmarking, and suggested results are often skewed.

Suggestion pane revealing options and tags
Core Vs. Other Value

A suggestive system that relies too heavily on tags or even behavior may not be sufficient. Worio’s toolbar ad-on (which seems mandatory), streaming activity and library of bookmarkings are nice additions, but core search/discovery must be perfected first. Worio needs initial input preferences and other input, until then all other considerations are secondary.

The Worio activity feed showing friends

The Worio activity feed showing friends


Worio claims they are a “discovery” tool. But, Google and others with far better resources can achieve this as well. So, this development’s only real advantage is that they actually use, while adding discovery and user value atop this. Taking advantage of this requires the effective use of internal community suggestion (human), interfaced with the obvious meta advantages, and further enhanced via algorithms of its own. While crisp design and perfected user interfaces are desirable, Worio and others like it have to deal with actual intuitive intelligence however derived. Worio’s success will depend on how well community and individual suggestion is integrated with meta search. If they can do this well, then they might be the discovery they aim to be.

About Worio – Worio was founded by students from the University of British Columbia, and is led by their CEO Ali Davar. The development is supported from UBC, Canada’s National Research Council, and PRECARN.

  • internetisscary

    It’s cool to see people trying to undermine Google’s search monopoly, but at this point, can anything really stop it?

    • Hi Scary,

      I am a big advocate of “never say never”, but it will take something significant. Worio is on the right trail though. As I said, they need a way to effectively communicate with the user doing the search or discovery, and right now tagging is not effective, while building a preference matrix takes too long. A few other variables mixed in and then we might have something.


  • Kristen Nicole

    Search is always trickier when you rely on anything community-related. Seems like a decent concept though. Having such marginal differentiating factors between Worio and Google (among others) merely reminds us that success is a matter of execution and presence, and not always about functionality and development.

  • Alex

    Good article Phil. It is always interesting to see a company that has the confidence in their product to challenge the same market as the Google monopoly. I hope they see success

  • Joey

    I love people trying to take on Goliath, but I just can’t get myself to get up off the google couch and try something different. I always find what I need searching google, if my needs are being met search wise then why would I use different search engine. As for discovery, well I prefer to use these just like the other millions of users already using these services: digg, stumbleupon, funnyordie, youtube, facebook, IM, email, literally talking to people, twitter, etc.

  • roosevelt

    I was wondering, how Worio is marketing itself to the users. From my understanding, if they try to reach people via social networks and other online websites, they leave a huge chunk of audience who are not familiar with those websites.

    • Hey Kristen, Alex, Joey and Roosevelt! I really like the way Worio is approaching this. My tentativeness comes out of having been involved with hakie, Powerset, Search Wikia and others so deeply. In my experience, the science of fine developments starts out perfectly and then PR and Money get involved. Straight insight, attention to feedback and result oriented “tunnel vision” in some respects are what is needed to complete some of these innovations.

      The way Worio is headed will work for making a superior discovery engine, but only if the input some very key variables. I wil be doing a post later on about “convoluted” suggestion matrices for lack of a better term. StumblUpon, Digg and all the rest which are influenced by a “skewed” cross section, end up being effectively worthless except for the segment with the most weighted input – sim ply put – digg mentality make digg worthless for you and me.

      As for Goliath, Google will perform the Yahoo! trick one of these days. I used to bet on hakia, when I was sure that AI was around the corner, then Powerset redefined the way search was organized, now Search Wikia and even Worio interject the ultimate thinking machine – humans – but all too clumsily. I end up wishing I had the resources these people do, sometimes I think a kid could put the best search together with one rocket scientists, an office in Menlo Park and 25 million dollars to start.

      I should be talking to these rocket scientists later on, I will fill you guys in as I can. In the mean time, see if you can get Worio to hurry up and figure out what you want for breakfast. :) Cheers.


  • Anonymous

    Gotta make out more of the semantics out there. Great read! That’s where the future lies!

  • Anonymous

    Worio will worry me to death if it doesn’t do something. I’m hungry. Feed me, Worio!

    • Hello Anonymous Twins :) Worio will eventually learn what you want of it I think. The time it takes to learn is what bothered me, and my goofy tags on made the thing crazy. This was one of my points that I had to edit out, goofy tagging makes the algorithm suggest chicken soup when methane gas is the better suggestion, go figure. Thanks for your comments tho and check Worio out, it is well worth the effort.


  • Shady Aidy

    Enough of the sales / marketing / politico bs!

    “Discovery Platform?”

    It’s a freakin’ searh engine!

    You don’t per chance refer to Firefox as an “HTTP endpoint thin client remote information viewing platform” in sales meetings do you? :-) (Our sales team would, if they could get a few extra bucks out of the client!)
    Looks good though.

    • Good point Shady. It is a search engine. In fact, I went through the entire post and took out the references to “search engine” for two reasons. First, because the billed it as a discovery plaform, and given all the accessory like features, it is designed to be a sort of “all in one”. Secondly, to be honest, my view of their chances for success being so apparently dim, I decided to at least tag the way they wanted to be tagged. How is that for transparency. As for me marketing anything,

      Like you, I am tired of the salesmanship that goes on for all these startups. I just hammered the stuffing out of Entertonement, and guess what? No one cares if they are getting spammed, they aqre evidently too busy spamming someone else to get the spam out of their own system. Twitter included. Just thought you should know, I am on your side.


  • Ali Davar, Worio

    Phil, thanks for the terrific post. The question of whether Worio is a “search engine” is one we’re frequently faced with. We call ourselves a “discovery engine” because we see ourselves as solving a different problem than that of search. Our goal is to provide users new and interesting things that they didn’t necessarily go looking for, while finding what you’re looking for is the very purpose of search. Search’s aim is to be narrowly relevant to your keywords, but we want to go beyond that.

    We couple search+discovery together because we see them as complementary (e.g., I want to discover an upcoming Web 3.0 conference when I am searching articles about the semantic web). But by coupling discovery with search in this way, the major challenge for us becomes how to provide discoveries related to the many topics people search each day. This is why a simple collaborative filtering model doesn’t work well and we have had to use a lot of machine learning techniques to help the system learn in an automated way. Social tagging and other activities definitely help our system do that, but it is the other technologies that we use that greatly leverage this information that hopefully make Worio unique.

    Thanks everyone for your comments!


    • Hi Ali, What you are trying to do makes a great deal of sense. Semantic search, however defined, is about meaning. It has always been apparent to me that a multiplicity of very refined techniques would be required to achieve this perfectly. Outside of even true AI, there are only a narrow set of ways in which relevance and value for the individual, or even groups, can be achieved. I like what you are doing a great deal. I have had many conversations with the top experts in search from Riza Berkan of hakia, to Barney Pell of MS Powerset/live and Jimmy of course. My original estimation of the perfect search or discovery (with the current technology available) was a collaboration of these three.

      Money and other issues of course prevented any such combination of taking shape. So, Worio has a unique and interesting position now. If you can approximate or exceed the capability suggested here, then you will have something truly amazing. As Barney told me in our last conversation just before the MS deal, their variant, tho extraordinary in its own right, was still in the infancy stage. Help these ideas grow up fast Ali, and we will be using Worio, all of us, before long.


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