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Groxis breaks down wall, or at least a little of it

Groxis, the San Francisco maker of the Grokker search engine software program, is apparently tearing down the subscription wall on part of its offering -- and it's probably a good move. The NYT reports it here. Grokker displays a Web search as a series of categories set in a large circle on the page. (We have a diagram above, but this page explains more. Type something into the search bar at www.Grokker.com to get the basic idea.)

Until now, Groxis has charged a subscription for its desktop software, which incorporates search results from many sources. As we understand the NYT story, this latest move apparently only frees up a version with Yahoo results.

We've played with Grokker in the past, and wrote about it here, and here. We were intrigued by it, seeing its value, but not enough to shell out the $49 subscription for it, especially since we use various free search engines, and for tougher searches, have subscriptions to things like Lexis-Nexis...

[Update: See Anon's second comment below; we'd be interested in feedback too]

And Grokker's quirky interface takes some getting used to. Sort of unconsciously, we'd assigned it to the also-ran heap. But beginning tomorrow, the company will begin allowing computer users to view Yahoo search results with its technology via a Java plug-in for standard browsers, according to the Times. It will rely on advertising supplied by Yahoo.

"We're not intent on replacing Google or Yahoo," said R. J. Pittman, the chief executive of Groxis. "This is if you want to go deeper."

(Footnote: The NYT quotes Michael Keller, head librarian with Stanford University as saying: "It has gotten rave reviews." The NYT does say Keller is an advisor to Groxis. But as we wrote here, Stanford was planning to invest last time we talked with Keller in December. We don't know for sure whether the investment went through, but if it did, Stanford wouldn't be the most objective.)


Very visually stimulating, but very difficult to use. The whole mouse-hover-and-wait-for-context idea can not compete with text skimming.

Anonymous on May 9, 2005 2:22 PM
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Feeling bad about my earlier dismissive comment above, I just opened up my browser history and tried my last dozen Google searches side-by-side with Grokker. Only in one of the twelve cases could I imagine that the Grokker response diagram was more helpful than the first page of Google hits, but only marginally so.

I urge other people to try this same experiment and post their results here.

Anonymous on May 9, 2005 9:53 PM
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About four years ago I had the opportunity to get a demo of Groxis from one of its founders. I had recently left a startup that was doing something similar (but without the visual aspects), and as I was skeptical of our technology, I went to the demo with fairly low expectations. Unfortunately, I wasn't to be disappointed.

The demo started, and within a couple of minutes I felt I was seeing YACVTTDRDMFTU (Yet Another Cool Visualization Technology That Doesn't Really Do Much For The User). Ignoring my wife's plea to "be nice", I jumped right in asking questions about the technolgy (similar to the questions I'd been asking at the company I'd recently left) and saw immediately that he was more used to people saying "wow, cool" than "have you thought about this?". Then, as he was demoing some stored queries related to a paper he was writing, I asked which bits of research he'd found using the technology. The uncomfortable silence was thankfully interrupted by someone knocking at the door, giving me an opportunity to say thank you and goodbye.

To be fair I haven't tried the technology since then (other than the Yahoo demo), so it may be that they've improved things significantly over the past four years. But my feeling is that text-based search plus tagging plus a del.icio.us type of (community-based) service is the future, not yet another visualization technology.

Anonymous on May 10, 2005 4:01 AM
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