Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Collecta: Another Real-time Search Engine Bites the Dust

Los Angeles-based start-up Collecta has shuttered its real-time search business, including a destination site, API and publisher widgets. The two-year-old company isn’t closing down, but will pivot to unannounced and related projects, said CEO Gerry Campbell in a phone conversation today.

Asked whether creating a real-time search engine is a viable start-up business, Campbell answered quickly: “No.” His company’s pivot is the latest of multiple efforts in the space; last year, OneRiot gave up its search business to pursue real-time advertising, and Ellerdale sold to Flipboard to help add relevance analysis to its social magazine app.

The exit of Collecta and its competitors from real-time search is remarkable given they had swarmed to the space only a couple of years ago.

In 2009, many entrepreneurs and their investors bet that real-time search was the next frontier, recognizing that search engines were having trouble handling the onslaught of status updates and fresh information streaming onto the Web from Twitter and elsewhere.

Given the companies’ emphasis on speed, perhaps it’s not surprising that they failed and moved on so quickly.

Campbell would not say how many employees Collecta had laid off as part of the change, but he maintained the company has plenty of money in the bank from the $4.7 million it raised last spring from Dace Ventures and True Ventures. Mashable reported earlier today in its story about the Collecta changes that co-founder Jack Moffitt is no longer with the company.

Campbell said Collecta will apply its “very serious technology” to other real-time projects, but it will not become a real-time ad engine like OneRiot.

Who’s left in real-time search? There are still a few, including Wowd and Topsy.

Topsy’s tweet search is much more comprehensive than Twitter’s own, and it serves half a billion queries per month, mostly through its API, Topsy co-founder Rishab Aiyer Ghosh told NetworkEffect via email today. And while Google and Bing also index tweets (and Bing has an extensive relationship with Facebook), they have not fully incorporated social updates into their core search engines.

“With TweetMeme, CrowdEye and Collecta all pivoting out of it, Topsy may be the only real-time/social search engine left,” Ghosh said. He maintained that there’s still an opportunity to build an independent real-time search engine “done right,” despite the competition dropping like flies. Topsy has raised $15 million in funding from investors including BlueRun Ventures, Ignition Partners and the Founders Fund.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald