YourTroveA few years ago, everyone wanted to find websites that would be interesting and fit a specific criteria. Sites that came along and fit this mold included Ask.com, AltaVista, Lycos, Yahoo, and Google. But now times are changing–people just aren’t interested in searching under specific keywords and phrases. No, they want more relevancy and filtering. Anyone can put up a website and game the system to have their site listed on a major search engine–so how does one simply point out what is important to their friends or even find useful content shared from a trusted source?

In order to make this happen, a social search engine is needed. Google and Bing have made some inroads into trying to become the de facto search engine that integrates traditional search along with social aspects, but they’re still far from getting it just right. The trick has got to be with finding a process or a way that would tie in with all the major social networks–Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Sadly nothing has been realized quite yet–in fact, Bing and Google are starting from a more traditional search strategy and are adding social layers on top of their results, almost like it’s the icing on the cake. It would probably make more sense for me that social search begins with the social part of it, and then further filters it by using traditional search parameters.

That’s where YourTrove enters the picture–this new startup is launching this week and is the latest attempt to create the first real social search engine. Imagine you’re interested in purchasing a new camera, or you want to find content relating to something like streaming TV devices, the one place you might go would be to your social graph–you have specific questions and you’re going to want to ask your friends for help in making a decision. Why? Because they’ve probably already been there and shared something about it–traditional search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing don’t give you that relevancy. It’s emotionless and without regard for the stage of the purchasing behavior you’re in. The opportunities for a real social search engine are ripe for the picking. Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it during last week’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference

Search is interesting. We do on the order of 1 billion queries a day and we’re basically not even trying. Today with search the vast majority of it is people trying to find people, but there’s also a meaningful portion of queries where people are trying to find Pages, brand Pages, other business Pages — so there’s a bunch of that that actually does link to commercial behavior, and I think there’s a big opportunity there and we just need to go do that.

So Facebook is gearing up for what will be their next frontier to conquest (hopefully after they’re dealing with mobile). But they don’t have to look far to find a startup eager to corner the market–that’s what YourTrove is gunning for.

For this bootstrapped startup run by Seth Blank, Jesse Emery, and Nick Viku, they’re aiming to help you better find information from your trusted peers and social graph. The project is pretty simple–allow you to log in using Facebook Connect and within a few days (depending on the size of your network), you’re going to get access to whatever Facebook data you want. The team has been coordinating their efforts with Facebook and is definitely in talks with Twitter and other social networks in the hopes of expanding their service, but right now they’re also limited by how many data calls they can make to the APIs of various services. But with initial access to over 950 million Facebook users, YourTrove has a gigantic advantage over anything that Google and Yahoo can pull together to help show you relevancy.

YourTrove

In the above image, I went into my social graph and did a quick search for “startups” and within seconds, the results from all my friends that either commented about startups or posted about startups was displayed–nearly 4,000 results. Of course, YourTrove wants to really show you what you want so they’ve enabled filtering by status, photos, check-ins, videos, and links–all important content typically shared through social media. As co-founder, Seth Blank, tells SearchEngineLand, “We’re building a contextual graph based on how people talk. Most social search, if you give it the word ‘cat,’ will show you things like ‘cats’ and ‘caterpillars.’ We can serve content that doesn’t match, but is still relevant.

SpyingAnd while social search is important and needed to help bring forth relevancy instead of noise, there are a few things that can cause people to be weary–privacy. Just because you want to share something on social networks doesn’t mean that you want it to be readily found. Yes, I know…what you post on the Internet, shall forever stay on the Internet. But isn’t there a reasonable expectation of privacy? Maybe I don’t want photos of the time I went clubbing to be public? What if a person’s Facebook account is super private and only those people that I’m friends with can see it? Does YourTrove bypass that and display it anyways? How far removed is the content from your core group of friends? Two degrees? Three? Four? Six? The issue should probably be figured out now when you have the data of 950 million users flowing through your service–and before you add on more social networks to help make things more interesting.

But what exactly is searched? Just user profiles, it seems. Facebook Groups, Pages, Interests, and other facets of Facebook are not yet integrated. It would be fascinating to have a company or brand use YourTrove to see what people are saying about a specific topic just by being able to run the process against the subscribers that are on their Facebook Page. Can you imagine a company like Virgin America using YourTrove to analyze how many of their Page subscribers mentioned “Virgin America” or “bad airline”? Maybe it would give brands a better opportunity to reach out to customers and/or better tailor their messaging, execute better campaigns, and much more.

The good news? YourTrove has definitely got a leg up against the big players and has a good enough runway to make the service into something that everyone should be interested in. The bad news? Lots more questions about scalability and privacy. Not to mention that there’s a growing need for the acquisition of funds and that at any time, any of the big social networks could, in theory, roll out their own search engine–which Facebook has been alluding to–and instantly crush the startup.

Give YourTrove a shot and see what you think…you just might enjoy seeing what your friends have in common with what you’re searching for and you might learn something new too.

Photo Credit:
- Screenshots via YourTrove
- Spying via sonfire/sxc.hu 

About the Author:

Ken Yeung

Editor-in-Chief of Bub.blicio.us and an accomplished interactive producer in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area interested in all things in tech and marketing. Whether its gadgets or startups or related issues, he's eager to learn about it. From attending local and national conferences to appearing at events, parties, and other meetups, Ken is interested in sharing what he sees. Oh, and he's an accomplished photographer too, having been commissioned by Mashable, TechCrunch, TechSet, SXSW, BlogWorld, and many more.

Visit Ken's page at http://www.thelettertwo.com

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