Mike Isaac

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Bottlenose Aims to Be a Better Search for the Social Web

With the rise of the Web over the past few decades, there is data everywhere, a continuous flow of content inundating us from every angle.

Google’s powerful algorithm helped us make sense of the Web early on; PageRank served us up the most relevant results based on links, making sure we were getting the best possible hits.

But as social networks like Twitter and Facebook have grown into Web powerhouses, producing billions of pieces of user-generated content every single day, real-time relevance has grown more difficult to achieve. Searching for the most appropriate tweet or the most up-to-the-minute Facebook share isn’t as easy as firing off a Google search — in order to work best, unfortunately, PageRank requires the passage of time and a history of back links.

Bottlenose, a start-up launching in public beta on Tuesday, aims to tackle this massive challenge with its own version of real-time social search. It is essentially described as a Google for the social Web, using public API inputs from the largest social networks out there: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, as well as photo-sharing sites like Instagram. Enter a search query, and Bottlenose scans each of the networks for the most relevant, current information, depending on trends across networks and the influence of the people sharing the content.

“Our mission,” co-founder and CEO Nova Spivack tells me, “is to organize the world’s attention,” in a cute nod to Google’s mission statement. Spivack, a veteran from the early days of the Web, leads a small team of seven engineers, backed by about $700,000 in venture funding.

And despite its lofty organizational intentions, the start-up doesn’t have an exorbitant amount of overhead. Bottlenose’s “Stream OS” engine is lightweight, written in JavaScript and HTML5, and leverages a crowd-computing architecture. Bottlenose HQ houses only 12 servers — most of the work happens on your computer, inside your browser.

After searching, users have an array of display panels in which they can view search results, including Sonar — a constellation-like view of the search term and related ones — a newspaper view, and the Pinterest-like Pictures pane, which delivers results from photo-based social networks. And if you’ve created an account, you can save your searches on the dashboard, coming back to them to see what the latest is on a given subject.

Biggest use case? It’s likely most relevant to marketers and social strategists who want to keep an eye on the pulse of whatever their clients follow. Without the search algorithm, the dashboard is especially close to a HootSuite-like analytics product. The free version is advertising-based — like Google! — while the upgraded paid versions give better access to the Twitter firehose, along with additional feature upgrades.

Bottlenose has its work cut out for it, especially with giants like Google and Microsoft integrating social into their existing search engines (with Search Plus Your World and Bing’s Facebook and Foursquare integration, respectively). But, as Spivack argues, Google’s struggles with other social networks means you only get Google+ results returned in SPYW, and Bing’s social integration isn’t comprehensive. Bottlenose spans multiple social networks while also including RSS feeds and photo-sharing networks, often overlooked by Google and Bing.

The free public beta is now open to all, at Bottlenose.com.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work