Overture Founder Launches New Search Engine

Gretchen Gallen
SAN FRANCISCO – After being mired in controversy, investor lawsuits, and bad publicity for the past several years, Pasadena, Calif.-based Internet incubator Idealab Inc. has risen from ashes, according to founder Bill Gross, and is on the verge of releasing a new search engine. Gross is also the founder of pay-per-click search company Overture Services, which is now owned by Yahoo Inc.

At the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco this week, Gross, unveiled Snap, a new search model based on technology from X1 Technologies, another Idealab company. The new engine, which is officially in public beta as of Oct. 5, allows users to control the way their search results are sorted by entering more specific terms within a separate query box.

The new search engine combines the use of algorithms and data-stream information – or a statisfaction rating – analyzed from a network of one million Internet users. According to Gross, by recording and processing which websites users spend time on, and which sites they quickly leave, Snap can automatically delete results that do not match, so that users don't have to sift through pages to find what they're looking for.

Snap is also being counted as one of the first search engines to include a terabyte of information on user intentions by licensing data from Internet service providers on search term relevancy.

So far, Snap is being geared toward users using engines for shopping results, and while advertising slots appear in search results, placement is not based on top bids for a keyword but on relevancy, Gross said.

Snap advertisers can also pick from numerous spending models, including pay-per-click, pay-per-transaction and pay-per-transaction.

Snap reportedly presents search results in a chart structure more similar to an email inbox, and users can re-sort the results by clicking on various column headings, which include reorganizing by domain, link popularity, user satisfaction, or page-view visits.

Snap's founder also claims that unlike Google, the inner workings of his search technology are open to the public. Gross claims that Snap also reveals its revenue reports and how much advertisers are paying to be included in search results.

"We think that complete transparency will lead to a new search experience for the advertiser but, more importantly, for the user," Gross said during his presentation at Web 2.0. "It's very difficult to spam these things because these are the aggregate usage of millions of users."

Gross and Idealab ran into trouble several years ago after a group of blue-chip investors alleged that Gross and his fiancée at the time had mismanaged the company and raided nearly $500 million in investments to support their extravagant lifestyle.

Before the dot-com bubble burst, Gross had been considered a pioneer of Internet startup companies. Although most of the companies Gross launched, with the exception of Overture, struggled to stay open when the Internet economy fell flat.

"It's going to be controversial, but it's awesome," Gross said in reference to Snap. "We're trying to improve search productivity."