When Me.dium launched at DEMO in February of 2007 I’ll admit that I didn’t really get it. The company started its life as a “social browsing” tool that allowed people to interact with other users while viewing the same page — essentially adding a chat layer on top of web pages via a browser plugin. That was never really something that interested me. I’d rather look at the web page I am browsing than talk to strangers about looking at the web page.
I suspect that what the folks at Me.dium eventually began to realize was that the real-time information about browsing habits that they were gathering from their users was more valuable than the service they where providing. That’s just speculation on my part, but over the summer, Me.dium launched a social search engine built on the back of Yahoo!’s BOSS API and data collection from the two million so people who had installed their social browsing toolbar.
The Me.dium search product augmented search results with a bunch of metrics about how Me.dium users were interacting with that page, including time spent on the page, frequency and number of visitors, and how traffic has surged or flattened over a recent time period. The result was a search engine that could help people find the most popular content from among their query results.
This week, Me.dium relaunched as OneRiot, a more simplified version of their social search product. OneRiot dispenses with the detailed buzz metrics and instead reorders results based on user interaction with web pages. Any search that includes results that are currently trending up in terms of popularity will be designated “Today’s Pulse,” and be marked with either an “Emerging,” “Surging,” or “Raging” icon, as well as an icon depicting the average time users spend on the site.
“When you search with OneRiot, you’re finding the pulse of the Web,” said Kimbal Musk, CEO of OneRiot in a press release. “The OneRiot community — a group of more than 2 million people — share what’s important to them as they surf. They help us find the freshest stuff to read or watch in relation to any search query.”
A search for [George Bush], for example, returns a set of results that are currently popular, including a YouTube video of a recent speech and a pair of recent news articles. On Google, the same search brings up the US president’s Wikipedia page and the official page of the White House — good information, but not helpful if you’re looking for anything a bit more recent.
OneRiot is pushing a Firefox addon called the PulseChecker that will give popularity and duration on site measurements for any page on the web. Presumably, that’s also how they’ll continue to gather user data as well, now that Me.dium is kaput.
OneRiot is something like the Nielsen TV ratings system for the web. It’s an interesting approach to search, and one that some people might find useful, but it’s hardly a game changer. OneRiot might be able to highlight buzzy content for searchers better and more quickly than the major search engines, but the bad news for the Boulder, Colorado-based startup is that the major search engines have access to the same data (better data, even).
If this type of search engine winds up appealing to consumers, it wouldn’t be hard for Google to switch in popularity metrics from their Google Toolbar product — which has a lot more users than OneRiot’s. In fact, we reported in July that researchers at Microsoft are working on a search ranking algorithm that does exactly that — ranks pages based on how users are currently interacting them.