The web has been from the very start a social development, a means of sharing content and fostering discussions.When Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web 20 years ago he did so as a means of allowing people, mainly academics at the time, to share information.
Yet social search has remained underdeveloped; Google recently removed its realtime search filter and only today the company announced that its +1 button will affect websites’ search ranks.
Twitter’s recent redevelopment of its site has seen an emphasis placed on search, yet even its own search engine has limited access to tweets. Facebook, in contrast, has largely ignored search, although there are increasing calls for it to “fix [this] broken feature.”
This is why Wajam (Facebook | LinkedIn | @wajam) is important. The two year old Canadian start-up founded by Martin-Luc Archambault has developed one of the most powerful social search engines available today. Wajam is a browser addon which connects search and social by providing users with direct access to their own and their friends’ history of tweets and status updates from several social networks as they search. The Wajam search engine acts as a bridge between the social web and more traditional search.
This removes the transient natures of the social web and brings depth to mainstream search.
We spoke to Martin-Luc before the launch of Wajam’s location based search update, which customises social results for users according to their locations. He told us that although the search and social sectors are competitive Wajam is best placed, in terms of its experiences and technology, to provide an in depth search and usability experience to its users.
Since its launch Wajam has served more than one billion results, across more than 20 million search pages from its index of user-generated content. Unlike Google’s deceased realtime search which used Twitter as its social source Wajam is a social search engine, meaning it archives old updates as well as recent ones (its index is less than 30 seconds behind Twitter’s).
A search for a tweet posted on this site’s Twitter profile a year ago, “is facebook building a phone“, on Tweeter returns no results (nor, indeed does Google) but Wajam’s index includes the tweet.
Indeed the depth of its index can be seen in Wajam’s own search engine which allows you to directly search for tweets and updates posted by your friends and followers (Wajam’s index of theSociable’s tweets is so large it took us five minutes just to scroll back to six months ago).
Martin-Luc explained that Wajam’s role as a search provider not only involves archiving user updates but providing context to those results. Wajam’s search engine extracts information from URLs, such as bit.ly, to provide users context with the search results.
It does this by archiving and social media updates to VeriSign and TRUSTe certified servers and processing each link directly.
As a social search engine Wajam’s results are not just visible when searching on Bing or Google but when searching on other sites such as Amazon, Overstock, eBay, Wikipedia, Yelp, Tripadvisor, IMDB, and others.
With these sites Wajam shows recommendations friends and followers have made which are related to the page’s content.
Along with the location based search improvements it has just launched the company is in an advanced stage of developing its smartphone application which promises the same level of social search depth.
So what of social search? While not only being a powerful search engine Wajam is a reminder of how undeserved users have been by the major players, who have yet to create a quality social search engine of their own.