“Whoever manages to change the nature of content display on the Web from a search problem to a recommender problem will reap tremendous rewards.”
That quote, by Greg Linden, the man behind Amazon’s recommendation system, is the dogma of Directed Edge, a new Y Combinator-backed startup in the recommendation space. Amazon, of course does product comparisons, but there’s no reason recommendations shouldn’t be a part of news consumption, music consumption, social networking, basically everything we do on the web. And while there are no shortage of companies out there that focus on some of these different fields specifically, Directed Edge has developed a system that can be plugged into all kinds of different sites.
And for sites that implement its system, it does the recommendations in real-time. “We can take data sets with millions and millions of data points and figure out what’s related to a given item in a few milliseconds. Most recommendations engines pre-compute stuff rather than generating the recommendations in real-time like we do,” Directed Edge co-founder Scott Wheeler tells us.
Wheeler claims they can do this because of the graph database they created in-house after they realized the off-the-shelf options just weren’t good enough for what they wanted to do. And much like Linden’s quote, Directed Edge truly believes that we’re about to see a shift on the web away from search and towards recommendations. And real-time is crucial to that. While we’re starting to see that trend take off in the social space right now, Wheeler believes it will spread to the rest of the web shortly. “Fundamentally we believe that shift is coming, and we want to be a big part of it,” Wheeler says.
Despite the recommendation system being fairly complex, they claim that a person running a site can get Directed Edge’s service up and running in just 15 minutes. And obviously, to be useful such a system would have to work with the data you already have, and that’s exactly what Directed Edge does thanks to its binding system that recognizes a wide range of web languages.
It may be hard to imagine a web where search isn’t the utterly dominant way we interact with everything, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that something like recommendations could become a big part of it. We’re seeing large sites like Digg also putting a lot of focus on recommendations. And then obviously there’s the Netflix Challenge, which just ended. That’s the web Directed Edge wants to see.