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Wednesday, March 23, 2005 Q & A With David Bodnick & Alex van Eesteren

I had the opportunity to speak with Alex van Eesteren and David Bodnick of, a meta search engine that's been around for a few years but released some new features out of beta today. The conversation was pretty interesting and made me realize meta search can have value if done properly, however, doing it properly can require nearly the same amount of resources as building a crawl based search engine itself.

A brief bit of background on these two.
Alex van Eesteren is based in Europe and was initially hooked up with David Bodnick via the VC firm that invested in IxQuick. Alex's background is that of sales and marketing and he's always had an entrepreneurial focus. Alex is the VP of Marketing for IxQuick.

David Bodnick is the creator and technologist at IxQuick and is a graduate of Brown University. He spent a bit of time working on Wall Street but the focus of his studies at Brown were on Organizational Management with a bit of CS thrown in during his graduate work there.

I'll provide more commentary on my discussion with the folks from IxQuick later, for now here's the IxQuick interview.

Q: What does Ixquick stand for?
A: Ixquick is a made-up name, but the 'quick' alludes to the speed of the metasearch.

Q: Are you screen scraping the engines or do you have a licensing agreement in place? Which engines do you have a license with?
A:We have license agreements with a number of large search engines, and cooperation with others.

Q: Do you have your own ad contracts in place or do you use advertisers on each of the search engines you get results from?
A: We display Sponsored Results from Overture at the top of the page.

Q: You use Yahoo! and AltaVista/AlltheWeb, which use the same database for their results. Is there a reason for this?
A:These engines use different ranking algorithms, and most of the time they select different results as the Top Ten most relevant.

Q: What does the server infrastructure look like?
A: 32 Multi CPU Unix Servers in 2 data centers in both the US and Europe.

Q: Where do the servers live?
A: US and Europe

Q: How many people are on the team?
A: Three principals and nine developers.

Q: How are you accessing the data from each site?
A: Ixquick efficiently retrieves results from many sites simultaneously. An elaborate Quality of Service algorithm balances relevance and speed to produce the best batch of results quickly.

Q: What do the stars mean?
A: Ixquick awards a star for every search engine that ranks a result as one of the 10 best results for a given search. For example, a five star (*****) result at Ixquick means that five search engines found the result Top 10 relevant. The Star System delivers more accurate and comprehensive results through the "Consensus" reached by the search engines it searches.

Q: Do you only look at the top 10 results for each engine?
A: Yes

Q: Does only looking at the top 10 results put you at a disadvantage?
A: No; the star system improves relevancy by removing irrelevant results that individual search engines are susceptible to. Ixquick's top results are consensus picks: irrelevant results may fool one engine or even two engines, but are unlikely to fool lots of engines. A five star result means that five search engines felt that result was one of the best, each reaching this conclusion using a different relevancy algorithm. Generally, that result will be very relevant.

Ixquick's results are also more comprehensive: if a hard-to-find result is only available to one of the twelve engines, Ixquick can find it. The pool of documents that Ixquick searches is a superset of the pool of documents that those search engines can access.

Q: Is the analogy of "vertical connect the dots" a good analogy?
A: Yes, in the sense that identifying a result that was a top choice of many engines is a winning approach for finding consistently great results.

Q: Do you have any plans to partner with Become?
A: Not presently.

Q: Who are your main competitors and how do you differ from them?
A: Infospace has the lion's share of the metasearch market, but we believe that Ixquick's relaunch once again establishes us as the leader in metasearch when it comes to delivering the quality that users appreciate.

Ixquick offers greater relevancy and fewer sponsored results. We have an international focus and cater to power searchers.

Our international focus helps our users find anyone or anything, anywhere in the world, through our
- International Phone Directory - a one-stop, 35 country phonebook
- International Lowest Price - comparison shop around the world
- International Web metasearch - Ixquick searches in any of 17
languages, now including the Web's only Chinese, Japanese and Korean metasearch. Each language Ixquick metasearches includes local engines.

Ixquick offers power searchers several unique capabilities:
- Universal syntax - to search with any power search method, including Boolean logic, phrases, wildcards, and field searches, by translating it into the syntax that each of the search engines it searches needs
- Remove repetitive results - follow-up searches that only show new results
- Result honing - next to results a checkmark and X appear. If a result is especially good, click the checkbox to find results that are similar, and if the result is not what you are looking for, click the X to remove results that are like it.

Q: Where do you see metasearch engines in the new vertical focus search?
A: Metasearch offers the ability to integrate new and promising search technologies as they emerge. This is as true of vertical search offerings as it is for more general search offerings.

Q: Is there anyone else doing an intl phone dir?
A: No. Ixquick's International Phone Directory is the only site that lets you find people and businesses worldwide. In addition, its Reverse Directory feature can use a phone number to find the person or business you are seeking and the directory information for that listing.

Q: Where are the phone numbers coming from?
A: Over 200 data sources have been integrated to provide this feature.

Q: Why did you decide to build an intl phone directory?
A: Phone directory searching is an important part of searching for most of our users. The International Phone Directory is a great embodiment of this feature according to our international focus.

Q: Will you make the int'l phone search accessible via a mobile browser?
A: Yes, especially for larger mobile screens.

Q: Will you ever generate RSS into your search results?
A: We can't guarantee that this will happen.

Q: Where does this shopping data come from?
A: The sources vary depending on the country. PriceGrabber and Kelkoo are the main sources.

Q: Why did you go with PriceGrabber instead of the other shopping engines?
A: We selected our partners by determining which would uncover the lowest prices for our users. We also felt that a true price comparison needed to consider the shipping and tax costs.

Q: Do you provide any addl data PriceGrabber doesn't for U.S. results?
A: We order product results from least expensive to most expensive, inclusive of tax and shipping, after listing a couple Featured Merchants. PriceGrabber requires an extra step in order to do that.

Q: Pictures coming from?
A: A number of picture sources are combined.

Q: Are there any unique features from your image search versus Google, Yahoo, A9?
A: You'll find very similar images here, but since a number of picture sources are aggregated, it's easier to find relevant images. The presentation makes it easier to skim results.

Q: Do you apply the star ranking system to your image search?
A: There are several elements to the picture search algorithm, but there's only so much that can be done.

Q: Where do you see Ixquick 3 years from now?
A: Our goal is to continue to develop the best Web search resource for users, by delivering the most useful, comprehensive, and enjoyable metasearch experience possible. In doing so, we hope to increase Ixquick's usage both in the United States and internationally.

Q: Do you see an increasing need for metasearch engines?
A: The relevancy and comprehensiveness that metasearch can offer, and the ability to combine great technologies and search approaches as they evolve, have always been compelling. As SEO professionals have increasingly affected website rankings on individual search engines, the ability to counteract this through a consensus-based Star System does become more valuable.

Q: Do you see an increased importance on the ranking algo within a meta search engine?
A: Result relevancy is the most important factor for any search or metasearch engine.

Q: Who is your target searcher? Do they fit a certain demographic profile?
A: Analysts, librarians and other information professionals appreciate the Power Search capabilities and comprehensive results that Ixquick offers. Professionals whose businesses cross borders gravitate to Ixquick's international strengths.

Q: Have you ever been in a legal dispute with any of the major search engines?
A: No.

By Jason Dowdell at 08:57 AM | Comments (0)

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