How OneRiot could be the foundation of social search


Photo by Danny Hammontree

I'm convinced that the next wave of innovation will be about breaking open data silos that are currently off-limits, and applying some of the lessons we've learnt from the web to build new tools. My focus is on email, but another area full of promise is users' browsing history. We all have the equivalent of a local neighborhood of websites that we frequently visit, and our visits demonstrate that we trust them. Having the option to weight those sites more highly when we're searching could give results personalized to our interests. If you trust your friends judgment too, and use visits from your social network in the weighting, then that adds another level of filtering.

The reason nobody's implemented this approach is that the data isn't easily available. To get the full browsing history you need users to install a plugin, and I know from my own experience that's a high barrier. It's also a network problem, you need a critical mass of friends before the social aspect becomes useful. Me.dium came the closest to jumping this gap with their alpha search service, so I was excited to try out their launch of OneRiot.

They're taking browsing data from their existing 2 million user base, and applying the popularity of a site to its ranking in the results. So as news stories and articles start to spread, they'll instantly appear in the rankings. Google's trying to speed up its indexing, but users are going to find interesting pages more quickly than any robot. This topicality makes OneRiot immediately distinctive, and I can see myself using it to search for breaking news and political stories.

Under the hood, they're offering the PulseChecker plugin as a toolbar to help drive the results, but I like the focus on giving the user something they can use immediately without installation. Persuading people to use an add-in is a tough nut to crack, but it will be a lot easier if the target is already a regular user of your service.

OneRiot are tackling a mammoth problem, but they're starting to build the critical mass of browsing data they need, and I'll be eagerly following their progress.

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