Forbes.com, February 7, 2005
The Best Internet Innovation In Years
|NEW YORK - Let me just come right out and say it. Answers.com is the most useful, smartest, coolest, easiest-to-use Web innovation to come around in years.
Answers.com is a new approach to Internet search, but make no mistake: It is not search. With one click Answers.com delivers instant information, not Web links, laid out cleanly on one page.
For example: Typing in Intel (nasdaq: INTC - news - people ) turns up a single page with a brief company history including pictures of the founders, a company profile, annual sales, employees, office phone numbers, executive's names, stock charts and recent news.
"I defy you to go to Intel's own Web site and find all that information within five minutes," says Robert Rosenschein, chief executive of GuruNet (amex: GRU - news - people ), the company behind Answers.com.
He's right. All the information available on Answers.com is out there, somewhere, but it's not aggregated and laid out as cleanly and easily.
What's even cooler is GuruNet's one-click technology. It works like this: After downloading a tiny bit of software, users mouse over any word on any Web page, within any e-mail, within any document, hit the "Alt" key and automatically get an Answers.com page with information described above.
What's better still is its ability to recognize context. If you mouse over the word "Ford" in one paragraph containing three different references to Ford Motor (nyse: F - news - people ), Harrison Ford and Francis Ford Coppola, the system will process that and deliver information on cars, actors and directors respectively.
Any word on the screen, provided you're online, becomes a simple gateway to more information.
The system, which has been live for about two weeks, is not perfect. It aggregates data from about 100 sources including dictionaries, encyclopedias and covers about one million topics, which sounds like a lot until you consider how many possible topic areas there are. Rosenschein says the company is adding sources and topics all the time.
Answers.com helps you find information but shouldn't be lumped into the search category with Google (nasdaq: GOOG - news - people ), Amazon.com (nasdaq: AMZN - news - people ) or Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ).
In fact, Google's search results page has provided a small link, called "definition" in the upper right hand corner, that takes users to Answers.com. The word "definition" doesn't tell users anything about what's behind it, so there's really no compelling reason to click on it. Rosenschein says he's talking with Google to come up with a better link.
Amazon's new A9 search engine also uses Answer.com for the "reference" section of its site.
The company, based in Wesley Hills, N.Y., hopes advertising will sustain its business. In the past nine months GuruNet reported a $2.4 million loss on $117,000 in revenue.
Rosenschein founded GuruNet in 1999 and raised $28 million from top-shelf investors like Goldman Sachs (nyse: GS - news - people ). But it wrongly tried to sell its technology--enterprise search--to corporations. It retreated from that business and re-emerged in 2004 with Answers.com. Rosenschein says one potential investor was so blown away by the demo that he told him to write down a number on the back of a business card.
The tech industry is full of hype and overblown promises. Rosenschein is a pleasant surprise. He appears to be a humble, aw-shucks kind of guy who may have just unleashed the Internet's next big thing.