Decide’s Hunt for New-Gadget Rumors Points to the Future of Smarter Search
Oren Etzioni is getting a little impatient. More than dozen years after Google emerged from Stanford and set up shop in a California garage, the University of Washington professor and artificial intelligence expert says Internet search still isn’t evolving fast enough.
Right now, as Etzioni recently wrote in Nature, the list of links coughed up by even the best search engines are really just “the electronic equivalent of the index at the back of a reference book.” With advances like IBM’s Jeopardy-winning Watson computer on display, Etzioni says Internet search should be a lot closer to answering open-ended questions—who won the Mariners game tonight? How much is parking downtown? And where can I get a decent haircut around here?
These aren’t just idle complaints. Etzioni, also a tech entrepreneur, is doing his part to help push the future of search with his newest Seattle-based startup: Decide, an e-commerce search engine that helps shoppers find rock-bottom prices on electronic gadgets. The company, which just opened up its site to the public in June, has raised $8.5 million from Madrona Venture Group (where Etzioni is a venture partner), Maveron, and angels.
Yep, that’s right—discount shopping. And it’s got a lot more to do with the future of search than you might think.
Decide uses sophisticated data-mining and analysis techniques to predict whether prices will change for a given product, giving consumers a better window into volatile retail prices. If this sounds familiar, it’s the same basic idea behind Farecast, another Etzioni company that predicted price changes for airline tickets. Microsoft bought Farecast in 2008 for a reported $115 million, and has incorporated the technology into its Bing search engine.
But where Decide gets really futuristic is its ability to advise consumers whether new models are about to debut, helping them avoid the kind of regret swallowed by all those poor folks who were just a little too late in buying the first-generation iPad, but a little ahead of the iPad 2’s debut—and stuck with an instantly outdated hunk of expensive gear.
(Right now, Decide only tracks TVs, cameras and laptops, but it’s easy to see the service expanding to a lot more gadgets in the future—tablets and smartphones are the two things people request the most, CEO Mike Fridgen says.)
Luckily for the summer interns of the world, Decide doesn’t get its new-model data by stuffing an office with hordes of readers and fact-checkers to comb over the Web for rumors. Instead, … Next Page »