What's Cooking in the Search Labs?

New multimedia and mobile search tools, for starters

Each day there are more things on the Web to search for - and it seems that each day it gets harder to find them. Besides, who has time to sit at a desk and search? The trends below are likely to power the next generation of search applications.

Digital Multimedia

The flood of multimedia content posted by pro, indie, and amateur producers - everything from vacation photos to movie trailers - makes it nigh impossible to discover media with the conventional 1.5 keywords query. According to comScore Media Metrix, more than 106.5 million people, or about three out of every five U.S. Internet users, streamed or downloaded video during the month of July. Yahoo's Flickr service receives 1 million photo uploads every day, while Facebook, the college-oriented social site, sees about 2.3 million photos uploaded each day.

The latest multimedia search services employ canny tech twists to let people zero in on what they want. Some of the ways advertisers will be able to play along include fairly traditional ad placements: premium links in search results, contextually targeted ads, and video pre-rolls.

Pluggd ( aims to let people find just the right audio segment within podcasts and videocasts, which can be downloaded and enjoyed on the PC or a portable player. Pluggd is gearing up to launch HearHere, a search tool that lets people type in a keyword and find the portions of podcasts where a chosen topic is discussed.

"It's like Google AdSense for audio and video," says Pluggd CEO Alex Castro. "Since we have the ability to look within the audio and video content and understand the content itself, we can match up advertisers using that information. If you're watching a videocast about travel in Europe, and one segment is about Dubrovnik, we could match up an advertiser who does tours on the Croatian coast."

Dabble ( combines video search with social search to let consumers not only find interesting clips but also to keep track of what they've found, so they can watch it again or share it with others. The service, which went live in beta in July, enables consumers to organize videos into playlists, publish the lists, and browse through other people's lists.

The company plans to enable people to form interest groups, which will open the door for targeted advertising, according to Dabble CEO Mary Hodder. "We'll actually match advertisers with opt-in communities, so we know people are interested," she says. Sponsoring a group is another possible option.

Searching On the Hoof

The major search providers and wireless carriers offer mobile search, including local search, map search, and blog search. But these services all search the same digital files that can be accessed from a computer. GeoVector ( takes a different approach. Its "3-D search" enables people to find location-based information.

"Pretty much every retail establishment and tourist point of interest is included in the databases we use," says Peter Ellenby, GeoVector's director of new media. Retailers could lure customers in the door by offering a daily special to those who opted in by pointing their GeoVector-ized phones at the store. By pointing the phone at a billboard, consumers might access detailed product information, and perhaps - someday - even be able to buy products from an m-commerce site. The service is running in Japan, where mobile is more advanced. U.S. consumers will have to wait a year or more for the release of handsets that have both GPS and digital compasses.

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