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New Search Engine Gets Another Backer

Kosmix, the startup behind an "unofficial home page" for every topic on the Web, has secured another $10 million in funding. The company's automated search engine crawls the Web for content on a given topic -- from aardvarks to zen -- then presents it in Web page format. It's an interesting, but imperfect, technology.
Kosmix, the startup behind an "unofficial home page" for every topic on the Web, has secured another $10 million in funding. The company's automated search engine crawls the Web for content on a given topic -- from aardvarks to zen -- then presents it in Web page format. It's an interesting, but imperfect, technology.I wrote about Kosmix in August as the company prepared to launch three topic-specific Web sites: RightHealth.com, RightAutos.com, and RightTrips.com. The headline of that posting, "Automated Search And The Advil Test," was a reference to fact that the search term "Advil" resulted in a page on RightHealth.com that was junked up with irrelevant metadata.

When I searched on "Advil" today, the results were better, but still not what you find on a Web page managed by real people. For example, the Images section of the page showed four nearly identical pictures of an Advil box, while the forum section seemed populated with a few bogus questions. In other words, there's a certain amount of noise that makes it onto the automatically generated "home pages."

Kosmix' portal pages for health, autos, and travel serve as launching points for refined searches in each of those areas. The benefit of that approach is that Kosmix can optimize each portal for a broad subject area and, from a business point of view, bring in related advertising. According to Kosmix, Righthealth.com draws 3.9 million unique visitors a month and Rightautos.com, 2 million unique visitors.

From the search bar on Kosmix's home page, a user can run a query on virtually any topic, including IT-related subjects. I searched on "virtual machines," "network access control," and "artificial intelligence," each of which generated a page of results organized in similar fashion. As before, there's a mix of relevant results and off-topic content.

Investors see promise in Kosmix' technology. DAG Ventures, a new investor, led the $10 million round, with additional funding coming from existing investors Accel and Lightspeed. Kosmix will spend the money on people, technology, and distribution, co-founder Venky Harinarayan said in a statement.

Kosmix' algorithms comb the Web, then aggregate and categorize content in Web page format. Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers, and YouTube are among its sources. It's a different kind of search engine, and not always better than Google or other alternatives. But if you're looking for a home page for, say, "asphalt," this is one place to go.