Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Sit Back, Relax and Do Some Research: Qwiki Opens Information Visualizations to the Public

Qwiki today will start letting the public into its site, which constructs narrated visualizations using photos, videos, maps and text for three million reference topics.

The idea is that instead of parsing through disjointed material, searchers can lean back and have a story told to them about what they’re looking for. The Qwiki results page experience feels like watching a low-budget TV documentary with panned-across stock footage and a robotic voice. (Side note: You probably don’t want to learn how to pronounce things by hearing them on Qwiki.) Eventually these presentations will be created for many more topics, and be playable on a variety of devices.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Qwiki, which just raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, is hedging on the public release by calling it an “alpha.” But the company, which won the TechCrunch Disrupt start-up competition in 2010, says it has “hundreds of thousands” of potential users signed up, of which about 60 percent have been given access so far.

Qwiki CEO Doug Imbruce said in a phone interview that Qwiki has received acquisition offers already, and took funding from individual investors rather than venture capitalists so its founders could retain control of the company and focus on product rather than monetization.

Imbruce emphasized that Qwiki is not a search engine and does not seek to be comprehensive. He said Qwiki plans soon to build its index by letting third-parties input material for new topics, including profiles of individuals.

An example Qwiki for Mount Everest is embedded below:


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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of Pets.com would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”