Kosmix - Noun: The definitive guide to the web.
Verb: To explore any topic, browse subjects of interest and discover something new online.
Thirsty caught up with Anand Rajaraman, Co-Founder of Kosmix, at the company’s Headquarters in Mountain View, California with an eye to understanding the future of internet search and browse. What attracted Thirsty was Kosmix’s unique presentation of search results that gives a multi-media view of relevant information including news, videos, reviews, images, opinions and communities. Kosmix was founded by Internet pioneers Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman who invented Junglee, the first shopping search engine, which was acquired by Amazon in 1998. Kosmix was funded by some of the internet’s greatest visionaries, including Time Warner Investments, Accel Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, DAG Ventures, Jonathan Miller, Jeff Bezos and Ed Zander. From Thirsty’s perch, the internet is evolving at a pace that would make Darwin’s head spin and there is something very important going on about how we will use search and browse in the future. The most telling question is: Do you Kosmix?
Thirsty: How did the idea for Kosmix come about?
Anand Rajaraman: Kosmix grew out of our belief that there's a real need for an editorial tool to help people sort through the explosion of content on the Web today. Sites like Wordpress, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook make it easy for anyone with an Internet connection to create and publish content. If you want to find a specific thing in this enormous sea of content, search engines do a very good job. Sites like Google are great for giving you the phone number for the pizza place around the corner or a link to your favorite band's summer tour schedule. Essentially you are asking a question that has only one right answer. But what about queries that have many possible answers? You're planning a road trip to Las Vegas and want to get some ideas of what to do or you have to write a term paper on Abraham Lincoln and need some help getting started or you've heard about a great new artist and you want to know more about her. A search engine's endless list of blue links is a really painful way to explore these things. That's where Kosmix comes in. Kosmix compiles the best of the Web into magazine-style topic pages. Kosmix organizes all the information on the Web so that you get a 360 degree view of anything that interests you - facts, images, videos, discussions, social networks, blogs, etc. We also connect you to other topics that are related that you may not have discovered on your own.
Thirsty: Is Kosmix the browse platform of the future?
Anand Rajaraman: From our perspective, there are two navigation paradigms on the Web - Search and Browse. Search lets you find specific bits of information quickly or navigate to sites you already know. Browse gives you a more immersive way to explore a topic so that you can learn more about something or discover something new. Kosmix is about reinventing Browse just as Google reinvented Search.
Thirsty: You recently rebooted your approach from vertical to horizontal browse. Why did you make this change?
Anand Rajaraman: We initially began the company with the vision to create specialized vertical search engines. We started by building RightHealth.com which is now the #2 health site on the Web according to Hitwise. Along the way, however, we found that a horizontal approach is better for consumers because they can find everything they need about any topic all in one place.
Thirsty: How do you plan to keep the page with browse results from becoming too overcrowded and overwhelming people with too much information?
Anand Rajaraman: That's a very good question. It's just as important to know what not to show as it is to know which results to display. At our core is a sophisticated categorization engine which we've developed over the last four years. When you type in your query, Kosmix technology scours billions of pages and structured data points to collect, categorize and present the best content related to your topic. We understand the relationship between different topics to a degree that the Web hasn't seen before. It's this combination of categorization and relevancy that helps us determine what to show you, and what not to show.
Thirsty: What is Kosmix role in deep search and data mining vs. the loss of privacy?
Anand Rajaraman: To answer your question about privacy, we never pull sensitive information and everything we surface is public content. In terms of mining the deep Web, we treat the Web as a collection of Web services and search engines not just a bunch of Web pages. This helps us pull together a lot of useful data that search engines typically don't show and also allows us to present each element in different forms like videos, audio clips and maps.
Thirsty: What revenue model have you chosen to support Kosmix?
Anand Rajaraman: Kosmix is ad supported. We have a system of sponsored modules which are clearly marked and which relate to the content on each topic page. For example, if you visit our topic page for the band Coldplay, you might see a sponsored module from Shopping.com for the latest Coldplay album. Our goal with these modules is to benefit both the advertiser and the user by reaching people with relevant content at the moment when they are most engaged in that particular topic.