Kansas based Kozoru launched a new service today called BYOMS, or build your own mobile search. It’s a handy way to search inside preselected sites by IM on a desktop or mobile device. Think Rollyo mashed up with AIM. Though not the easiest thing in the world to figure out at first, it could be a real time saver once you’ve got it set up.
Kozoru is a two year old company founded by John S. Flowers, a highly controversial figure who calls himself a Silicon Valley ex-patriot. When I say controversial, I mean for example that his bio page in Wikipedia has been marked as disputed and locked from editing. Flowers also has some fans, see the video testimonial on the BYOMS site from David Warthen, co-founder of Ask.com. But Flowers is a software guy and the proof is in the pudding, isn’t it?
How does it work? It took me awhile to figure it out exactly, but now that I have I see that it doesn’t have to be difficult at all. Users start an account at Byoms.com, then make a list of related web sites they would like to be able to search from IM. You can set up a search client for one site or for several together. Quite a few preferences can be changed; number of replies sought, length of the URL displayed in the results, number of sentences to display from immediately before and after the search terms, etc.
The best way to see how the system works is to try it out. It’s AIM only, unfortunately, but if you’ve got an AIM account here’s three query clients you can add to your buddies list.
The SearchTechCrunch buddy will search TechCrunch.com, Crunchnotes and MobileCrunch all at once. Give these a spin, you might just decide to keep them in your buddies list for good.
It looks like it’s far more efficient than visiting any of these sites just to search inside them. It’s also better than using a regular search engine using the site: operative. It’s faster and there is a lot more control available, for the search builder at least. Even if there were absolutely no other strong points here, I would find it useful to be able to search inside multiple sites with one fast query.
There are two key steps you’ll want to remember when creating your own byoms. First, you have to create an AIM client for each search and provide its screen name and login to Kozoru so the system can catch your queries. Second, you have to select “publish” not just to expose your search client to others, but to use it yourself as well. Kozoru’s Justin Gardner says he believes that this is where the real excitement will come in – when content publishers start seeing
subscriptions to searches of their sites via BYOMS.
There are a few down sides here as well. It’s not a lot of fun to go to AIM.com and create a new screen name for every search client you want to produce. There doesn’t appear to be any way to keep your search clients private. You can’t put phrases in quotes, but you can use a minus sign to exclude terms. Sometimes if the site you’re searching has a lot of comments indexed, it’s difficult to tell whether your results were written by the site’s author or a commenter without clicking through a link. I don’t think any of those are deal breakers, though. The system is flexible and fast enough that I think it has a lot of potential.
Business model? No word yet, beyond being bought out. Flowers says the company has not received any traditional VC funding, but was reported to be in acquisition talks with Google for some period of time. If I get 4 lines of text each for 2 search results, for example, I personally wouldn’t mind getting a few words of contextual advertising clearly marked.
Once the search clients are set up, they couldn’t be easier to use. I know I plan on setting up several for groups of sites I search inside often. Will other people do so? I think that IM is friendly enough and this service is unobtrusive enough that it’s quite likely they will. I’d say the controversial Mr. Flowers came through on this one.