Monday, November 07, 2005

Topix the latest to blend blogs with news

Topix.net has thrown its hat in the blog search engine ring by announcing "blogs and news are now on equal footing" in its keyword search results. This is in contrast to Yahoo putting blogs on the right side of their news results in a little box, and Google keeping news and blog results separate from each other on different pages. Topix's strategy looks most like Blogniscient's default view, but Topix does not do clustering like Memeorandum or Blogniscient do (the former clusters by default, the latter's clustered view is a secondary option).

One incidental point in all of this is the still-evolving unofficial standard for visual representations of blog and news content side-by-side. We all know the blue/black/green standard for Web search results, but how to differentiate blog and news results (and whatever else comes along?)? Topix's solution is to put a beige background behind blog results. No two sites are alike in this regard, so a new standard is up for grabs. Personally, I would prefer a specific colour-coding for blogs. Tinfinger will use a tongue colour (#f66 for those playing at home). Why tongue? Well, I would have liked a skin colour but there are so many varieties (some of which are represented in the finger part of the Tinfinger logo). Once everyone opens their mouth, though, their tongues are pretty much all the same colour. And blogs are just digitised tonguewagging.

So, given all these large and small companies are already in the news/blog indexing market and innovating in real time, how could a freshly minted startup (like Tinfinger) hope to gain any traction? Our take is a little different. Instead of a straight keyword-based site - the sort of thing robots do best - we focus on what humans understand best: other people. We will enable keyword searches of our content index, of course, but our main focus will be on a directory structure of groups of people. The effect will be somewhat similar in that the directory headings will be a bunch of keywords, but we're confident that the resulting site will give users a significantly different experience to the other aforementioned sites.

Tai has been reading Sun Tzu so we know not to be too confident. We're kind of like the starting Settler in Civilization IV, surrounded by the fog of war but with fertile ground all around us. Here's hoping we find the best spot to build something that will stand the test of time.

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