Qwerly tries to crack people search for the social web

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The problem with Twitter, if it’s a problem, is that the only thing people can put in about themselves is a few short words and a URL. At least on Facebook you can add several URLs, a professional history, even publish your email address. Not on Twitter. What Twitter could use is a better ‘whois’ style look-up which replaces the frantic Googling you have to do to find anything more about a Twitter user.

New startup Qwerly, now launched into Alpha, is effectively that “whois for Twitter,” or perhaps even a “DNS for people” according to founder Max Niederhofer.

Since it’s clear we now all join new social networks and sites, keeping track of these is an issue. I recently spent a long afternoon just collacting them for my own personal blog, for instance (and not very neatly), but Qwerly has done it quite efficiently here. So Qwerly’s mission in life is to be the ultimate directory about what services you and the people in your life are using on the public internet.

Here’s how it works. You put in any Twitter username, and get page with that person’s other profiles, like Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Plancast and many other social networks and sites.

Robert Scoble’s Qwerly profile is thus suitably crammed with all the social networks and URLs he’s ever registered on. If you sign up, Qwerly will do searches for all the people you follow on Twitter, so you can see where they hang out online. And you can also edit, correct or delete the things Qwerly has found about you, thus taking control of your profile.

It’s also trying to work out who your contacts are.

Privacy advocates will have to bite their tongue since all Qwerly is doing is searching public web pages with its own propriatery search engine. The difference is they put you back in control, unlike those sucky ‘people search engines’ like 123people. In that respect it has something in common with Rapportive.

As an alpha site, Qwerly is not quite all there yet, but Niederhofer says the site is improving all the time.

You can also embed any profile on another web page by using the “embed” button. If you’re a web developer, you can also use Qwerly’s data via a read API.

Business model? Well clearly this is about getting as much scale as possible first then working out the next steps.

Niederhofer was previously a Principal at Atlas Venture, a venture capital firm. Prior to Atlas, he founded myblog.de, Germany’s largest blogging community, and was a seed investor in Last.fm, a music community (acquired by CBS). Besides Qwerly, he currently has angel investments in Skimlinks, Boticca and OneFineStay.

  • http://qwerly.com Max Niederhofer

    I’m here to answer any questions, by the way (“AMA”). Fire away!

    • Andreas Pizsa

      How do you differentiate qwerly from Google’s Social Graph API?

      • http://qwerly.com Max Niederhofer

        Hey Andreas,

        it’s hard to answer your question without asking you to reframe what you mean by “differentiate”?

        Google’s Social Graph API powers e.g. link suggestions in Google Profiles and part of the Android Contacts app. And we make use of it as well. It’s not a consumer-facing service… so maybe your question is whether we feel competitive with Google Profiles or “searching for a name” on Google?


  • dana williams

    This company is really interesting because it answers a need that is emerging now.
    “The right thing at the right time”
    Great people who have thought it!
    It’s hard to find and apply the emerging needs at a given moment and it’s difficult to create something that meets these needs in a comprehensive way!
    In fashion, I know another exemple of emerging needs that are met in a great way :

  • peter

    what specifically is the use case of this?

    i have someones twitter name – not their real name – and want to learn more about them? if the hard bit is acquiring lots of a users ties to other social networks (like rapleaf does) why is the entry point your twitter username?

    most people have no idea what “DNS” is, by the way …

    • http://qwerly.com Max Niederhofer

      Hey Peter,

      the reason the entry is the Twitter username (for now) is that @johnsmith is a vastly easier query to handle than “John Smith”. So we kind of make it easy on ourselves by restricting it to Twitter right now.

      Believe me, we’re working hard on real name search and integration with other social networks.


  • Simon Rustenburg

    So basically I think the writer makes two big mistakes:

    This isn’t a real people search, it’s more like: where do we find the same username on the web? Tested it out on people who, eg, have a vanity url at facebook that differs from the one on twitter: nada.

    Second: the writer ‘condems’ other people search engines like http://www.123people.com and http://www.kgbpeople.com for breaking privacy rules. Wrong: they also search in publicly available sources.

    Please do some deeper testing of new initiatives and refrain yourself from doing unfounded statements.

    • http://qwerly.com Max Niederhofer

      Hey Simon,

      matching usernames is one way we do try to gauge confidence on whether these profiles belong to the same person. However, much more important is whether they’re linked by semantic web standards (such as microformat rel=”me”), or they’ve OAuth’d between the sites (e.g. you’re using the Twitter app on Facebook) or whether the real name matches. You’ll find that e.g. for this profile http://qwerly.com/twitter/elatable everything is the username elatable but we do find the Flickr profile which is different.

      Regarding the point about 123people – yes, they do search public sources. It’s Intelius and Spokeo which do more public records search (i.e. stuff that’s not online, like police records and court documents). We do believe we’re much more accurate than 123people for our specific “whois for Twitter” use case. Though much more limited in scope as well (at the moment).


  • http://www.skimlinks.com Alicia Navarro

    Congrats, Max! So proud of you and what you have achieved!

    • http://qwerly.com Max Niederhofer

      Thanks, Alicia! This is only the beginning – it’s a marathon, not a sprint :)

  • http://jetlib.com/news/2010/10/19/qwerly-%e2%80%93-people-search-but-this-time-for-the-social-web/ Qwerly – People Search, But This Time For The Social Web | JetLib News

    […] Read the rest of this entry » […]

  • joko

    Hey there!

    Sorry for asking this here, but I remember reading at TC about a company that specialized in providing search technology for websites/blogs – eg. it indexes the website’s content and then users can search it.

    Anyone remembers its name? I believe it has been featured here fairly recently but I just can’t find it…

    Thank you in advance!

  • http://www.gobuzz.com Dan Voell

    Sounds a little Gist-ish?

    • http://qwerly.com Max Niederhofer

      Not dissimilar. Though we’re keen on making different UI/UX choices than Gist. And unlike Gist, Rapportive, Flowtown, etc… we’re not based on Rapleaf data.

  • http://www.andcontext.com/ franz

    uiuiui history repeats itself

    first of all: the current leader in people search (named in the article) started with a social aspect, too. then they grew up.

    second: people search is not about .. us. the techcrunch readers, the web avantgard which uses every new service out there, finding these people is easy … its called google. people search is about the others. those who still are listed in the white pages, those whos understanding of networking is to asked questions in the local kindergarten forum, those people which are not in our twitter stream, those with 5 year old nokia phones (yes, no apps … not even facebook integration). those must get found via people search … i would like qwerly master this.

    there is a lot of innovation still possible within the people search space … i wish qwerly good luck with it …. p.s. i think the name is awesome

    • http://qwerly.com Max Niederhofer

      Hey Franz,

      I’m delighted that you like the name. A lot of people were a little “WTF” when I told them what it was called. You gotta type it to like :)

      I do think history repeats itself in tech. Regarding people search, there just weren’t that many social networking accounts to consolidate out there 3-4 years ago when other people started. So they switched to the “white pages” model (and are making good money with it!). Now we have a billion people on Skype, 500M on Facebook, 160M on Twitter, 120 million on LinkedIn. And there are 300 web services launching a week.

      One of the core hypotheses of Qwerly is that this stuff is only going to increase. I don’t deny that with a bit of time and some leet Google skillz you can find any account for a person who is active online. But I also think this is an interesting vertical for search – and one that’s been completely neglected by Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.


  • http://www.digitalundivide.com donfelipe

    The big question is how will Qwerly make a profit? I don’t visualize being purchased by Twitter because they are broke. Google is the big boy on the block with a lot of cash ready to purchase promising tech companies.

    • http://qwerly.com Max Niederhofer

      Wait, we’re still on Step 1: collect underpants. :)

  • Greg

    Congrats to Max.

    Still think Max should be the official commentator on all TCEU posts.

    • Milo Yiannopoulos


  • http://wwwhatsnew.com/2010/10/19/qwerly-busca-otros-perfiles-sociales-a-partir-de-una-cuenta-twitter/ Qwerly – busca otros perfiles sociales a partir de una cuenta Twitter

    […] en este caso tenemos que navegar los links que encontraremos en la parte inferior del site.Vía techcrunch Guardar en Delicious | Enviar a Menéame | Entradas Relacionadas Kontagent – […]

  • http://www.bedroompublishing.com/2010/10/20/qwerly-aggregated-profile/ Qwerly – Aggregated social media profile service

    […] my usual feeds I stumbled across a nice little service named Qwerly which was covered by TechCrunch. By allowing it to connect to your Twitter account you can view all your contacts and the other […]

  • http://techorange.com/2010/10/20/qwerly-do-people-search-by-twitter-account/ Qwerly,社交網站人肉搜尋引擎 | TechOrange

    […] TechCrunch報導,Qwerly […]

  • Miriam Lahage

    Congrats to Max! I am excited to engage and watch the site evolve.

    Agreed, you should be the official commentator for TCEU.

  • http://www.whitebearyard.com Stefan Glaenzer

    Hey Max,

    congrats, Alpha is out, well done. Keep on movin

    • http://qwerly.com Max Niederhofer

      Klaro :)

  • http://www.komet.ch/?p=3215 Qwerly.com: Personensuche für Twitter Benutzer » Twitter, Person, Suche, Profile, Qwerly, Nutzer » komet.ch

    […] nennt das ganze eine Art Whois-Suche für Twitter. dabei durchsucht Qwerly nur die öffentlichen Profile der Twitter Nutzer, indem es Relationen […]

  • http://geeksroom.com/2010/10/qwerly-buscador-de-perfiles-sociales-utilizando-la-cuenta-de-twitter/39147 Qwerly: Buscador de perfiles sociales utilizando la cuenta de Twitter. | GeeksRoom

    […] Techcrunch] Este artículo fué escrito por Gustavo Martinez MeneameBitacorasRedditDeliciousGoogle […]

  • http://www.123people.com Russell E. Perry - CEO 123people

    Hi Maximilian,
    looking good! Best of luck for your new adventure and when you pass through Vienna the next time, give me a call!


    • http://qwerly.com Max Niederhofer

      Hey Russell,

      if I can take one of your SEO ninja classes, you’re on! 123people is killing it. Did a lot of work on Comscore directories this spring and you guys are consistently up top. Great work!


  • http://www.calendargod.com Leon Crutchley

    well done Max- had a good play already and looks very slick in a bing- like way. Definitely fills a need, but I’m looking forward to the rapportive style add-in I’m sure you guys will be bringing soon!

    • http://qwerly.com Max Niederhofer

      We’re chatting to a few folks about having Qwerly data integrated into applications that sit more squarely inside your workflow (Twitter clients especially) so you don’t need to visit the Qwerly site. Ideally we’d like Twitter to put us onto their pages and into their apps… Ev, are you reading this? :)


  • Merten

    Very cool site, congrats Max! And yes, the name is also pretty awesome :D

  • http://gruvix.com/qwerly-un-buscador-para-la-web-social/ Qwerly, un buscador para la web social

    […] Vía| TechCrunch […]

  • http://itwwt.com/2398.html Qwerly:打造Twitter版whois | 微博之博

    […] 如果你注册的话,Qwerly可以搜索你在Twitter上关注的所有人,这样你就知道这些人平时在哪儿“混”。你还可以编辑、修改或删除你的Qwerly档案,你的地盘你做主。 via TechCrunch […]

  • http://www.cygnismedia.com/social-media-application/ social media application

    i feel good to engage my self with this blog cause i got nice information today about Twitter..

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