GuruNet Joins Free-Search Market

GuruNet drops its subscription model, in an attempt to grab a piece of the growing Internet advertising market that's driving the success of Google.
GuruNet Corp. is offering its search engine for free, in an attempt to grab a piece of the growing Internet advertising market that’s driving the success of Google Inc.

New York-based GuruNet, however, insists that the service launched this week isn’t competing with Google, which searches the web to deliver users with relevant search results.

GuruNet, on the other hand, draws its results from 150 different data sources, including encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases and glossaries, which collectively cover about a million topics, Jay Bailey, spokesman for GuruNet said.

“Our focus is to provide instant answers without having to look through search-engine links,” Bailey said. “At the end of the day, what you’re looking for most of the time is a fact, and not an article that may mention the words (you’re looking for.)”

While GureNet’s approach to search is different than Google’s, the smaller company’s new business model isn’t. GuruNet, which went public late last year, has abandoned the subscription fee of $30 a year for its desktop software, opting instead to carry sponsored links.

Online advertising is booming. Revenues from Internet advertising reached a record $2.43 billion in the third quarter of last year, a 35.3 percent boost from the same period a year ago and the eighth consecutive quarterly increase, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Because consumers today can search the web for free, GuruNet’s old business model was no longer viable. The company’s subscription-based product, GuruNet for Windows, was a utility on the desktop that a user could use to look up a word in any text-based document.

“The software component was a nice add-on feature, but a lot people said it was reference information that could be found somewhere on the web for free,” Bailey said. “We ‘re evolving very much towards the way Google makes it money. It’s a model that works very, very well for them.”

GuruNet, however, has a long ways to go before matching Google’s multi-billion-dollar revenue stream. The smaller company reported a loss for 2003 of $2.8 million on revenues of $29,000.

With, a user, for example, typing the name of jazz great Billie Holiday returns a summary of her life from Wikipedia, an audio link that gives the pronunciation of her name and four web links, including The Official Site of Billie Holiday.

GuruNet is also offering at no charge its desktop utility, which has been renamed One-Click-Answers. The utility also will carry text-based ad links.

GuruNet last year announced a deal with online retail giant, which has integrated the company’s service within Amazon’s A9 search engine.

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