Two big trends in search right now are semantic and social search. Worio, a startup in Vancouver, BC, is combining the two approaches today by tapping its semantic search engine into Facebook Connect. The fundamental technology behind Worio is a semantic tagging system that analyzes the content of indexed Web pages and categorizes them automatically based on what it can glean about the meaning of the text. It provides both normal search results and a discovery feed based on the tags. Search results can be saved in a library of links.
Now, with the Facebook Connect implementation, which just went live a few minutes ago, Worio can tap into your profile, your friends, and your feed to further personalize search results. Worio actually indexes your profile and feed. Any time somebody shares a link on your feed, the entire page gets analyzed and tagged by Worio, and added to its index (which currently is made up of about 100 million pages, culled down from one billion found by its crawler). Worio is less concerned with quantity than quality, as far as its index is concerned, and adding links recommended by friends is a really good filter for quality links.
Once you sign into Worio via Facebook Connect, it takes a few minutes to index your profile. From then on, any search you do will be influenced by your profile, links your friends share on Facebook, and the semantic tags that Worio associates with you and your friends. For instance, when I search for “restaurants,” Worio figures out that I live in New York and peppers some results specific to New York City in my discovery feed results even though I didn’t put “New York” in the search box.
The discovery fed on the side is divided into several boxes, with the associated tags shown on top, so that you can see how Worio is categorizing the search. The links in the discovery boxes change with each refresh and act like Stumbleupon links—each one has some level of pre-qualified goodness or interestingness. It would be nice if you could click on each tag to further refine the search, but that capability is not turned on yet.
When you click through to a Webpage, a Worio box hovers in the top right allowing you to rate the page with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, save it to your Worio bookmark library, or share it. When you click save, the box expands ti show you all the tags Worio associates withe the page, and lets you add your own. In this sense it is like Delcious on steroids. The auto-tagging is a really nice feature and is surprisingly accurate. Links can be made public, viewable only by your friends, or private. Pages can also be shared via both e-mail or Facebook.
What is interesting about Worio and other search startups tapping into Facebook Connect such as Q&A service Aardvark is that they don’t even need a Facebook app to make their services more socially-aware. Worio is working on a Facebook app which will make the discovery feed available inside Facebook, but it doesn’t need that to improve its results.
Worio is trying to train people to conduct a different type of search, one that is more serendipitous. It falls under the vague category of “discovery,” a term of art that has failed to catch on because it can mean so many different things. But if Worio is about discovery, then it should put its discovery feed front and center instead of off to the side. If I want regular search results, I already know where to go for those.