RightHealth is a highly automated health care portal. From the home page, a user can click on a popular topic -- from "Advil" to "Zoloft" -- or type in a word or phrase, say "freckles." That takes you to a subject-specific page with a dozen or so categories, including images, video, news, and in-depth articles, tools to refine and explore related areas, a list of top Web sites, a blurb and link to Wikipedia, and ad-sponsored links. Tabs at the top of the page get you to research, news, blogs, and communities.
Each page informs you how many sites were scoured to pull together the information displayed. The page on high blood pressure, for example, was assembled by scanning 121,876 pages on the Web. It's an impressive demonstration of search automation, but the limitations are obvious, too. RightHealth's Advil page, for example, is junked up with metadata ("buy Advil cheap, cheap Advil, buy cheap Advil, online Advil, information Advil, order Advil online, Advil online pharmacy…"), while its "overexertion" page includes information on physical fatigue and a heavy metal band by that name.
That's one of the fundamental problems with automated Web search -- a lot of off-topic debris gets included with the meaningful information. Kosmix claims that its search/categorization technology works for virtually any subject, that it can create an "unofficial home page for every topic on the Web." That may be the direction things are heading, but it's not there yet. Type in "soccer" or "concrete," for example, and you get the familiar stack of URLs, not home pages like those on RightHealth, RightAutos, and RightTrips.
Kosmix (investors include Accel Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos) also has search portals devoted to finance, politics, and video games. The company's auto-generated, on-the-fly home pages are 75% of the way there in six broad areas. What's left to be done, however, may be the toughest part: a better signal-to-noise ratio across more topics.