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Explainer: On(line) good authority

On(line) good authority

Where do you go when you need to find something online? The Explainer isn’t psychic, but your answer was likely Google. The strangely named company largely rules the web search world, but two Montreal men want to give the people another option.

Explainer hits upon a local search party.

1. Zenome.com is the brainchild of Zsolt Szigetvari and John Connolly. The former is a media and communications lecturer at Concordia and Dawson, while the latter is an MBA who teaches at Dawson and the John Molson School of Business. Both realized that students who were assigned research projects for class were ending up with the same, often lacklustre information. "They had all gone on Google," says Connolly. "[Results] are based on the popularity of a site, so any obscure critical or analytical material, however valuable, is crowded out." The concept behind Zenome is that it will rely on its users and a team of editors to build an ever expanding directory of websites. Connolly says the company will share revenue with its editors. Content will be ranked by a combination of popularity and the expertise of section editors. Connolly says this adds an element of human intelligence to the process and will provide results that are more about substance rather than popularity. "This is a directory that will grow and continuously reorder itself according to the needs of the people who use it," he says. "We release it, step back, and let the community take over." The site is still in beta, meaning it is still being perfected, and currently has a traffic ranking of 168,591 according to alexa.com, a well-known rankings site.

2. There are many ways to search the web, and Zenome isn’t alone in using a directory model where sites are categorized according to their subject. The Open Directory Project is the largest human-edited directory on the Internet today and has been building itself up since 1998. (Connolly argues that it has lost its momentum and that Zenome is different because it combines the human element with algorithms to help prioritize the directory listings.) It claims to have 4,631,076 sites selected by 68,983 editors working in 787,774 categories. As for Google, Alexa ranks it as the third most-popular site on the Internet. It employs over 3,000 people and has searched over eight billion webpages and more than one billion images. Google’s name is derived from the mathematical word for the numeral that is a 1 followed by 100 zeros.

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  23 comments

  • by Stephen Talko - July 21, 2005, 7:38 am

    When I did a Google search on my full name it returned 16 highly relevant results but I got nothing on Zenome just using my last name. To be sure I search as much of the internet as possible I like to use multi engine search software such as Copernic that quickly process many search engines at the same time and perform some filtering and analysis before providing the results. Unfortunately to have the best features you usually have to get the paid version. Anyway I think the trend is towards more specialized search engines that are only expert in finding information in certain niche areas. But Zenome itself is a major disappointment.

  • by Ellen Reid - July 21, 2005, 10:45 am

    When I started to read this article I couldn’t see how anything could eclipse Google, which has rapidly risen to the search engine of choice for the vast majority of people. However, as stated in the article, Google finds the most popular sites, and popularity doesn’t necessarily connote quality (bizarrely, the opposite is more true).
    The key question though is what people use search engines for. Research for school/university papers, work-related topics, general knowledge, quirky information, companies? It is hard to imagine life without Google or Yahoo! or Dogpile et al as they have completely revolutionised our information gathering habits, but how can one verify the veracity and quality of the material received?
    Previous reliance on books or first/second hand data must have come across the same difficulties, but the fact that anyone can publish online makes it a breeding ground for all kinds of varied information about different topics. Perhaps the real question is actually one that goes a lot deeper: how sure can we be of any information we receive, unless it is an event that we witness ourselves? Although this stance may seem rather radical, it is also elementally true – we can only REALLY know something that we have experience ourselves. Otherwise, we are merely intaking other people’s perceptions of events…
    In our modern society it is nigh on impossible to limit one’s understanding to this very limited, yet extremely pure sense of knowledge, but I think the underlying concepts of the idea should be considered by more people. We believe we are so well informed about things nowadays, but we should really start thinking about where our information actually comes from.

  • by Selena Lobo - July 21, 2005, 12:10 pm

    I am glad to hear that there is another search engine out there that will try to compete with Google. Nothing frustrates me more when you google and the first couple of sites are all for you to buy something and nothing to do with the topic.
    The search engine Zenome sounds like it is trying to solve that problem. Also the fact that it is Montreal-based makes me want to use it even more.
    I had Zsolt Szigetvari as a teacher many years ago at Dawson and he was great so I don’t expect hissearch engine to be any less.

  • by Steve Landry - July 21, 2005, 2:40 pm

    Hey, we’re a big society with all kinds of options and although Google has handcuffed the average internet user into thinking they’re the bee knees of Search Engines, all the power to Zsolt Szigetvari and John Connolly for challenging the league leader.
    What the hell, it’s a free world.
    But, some user beware knowledge may be important to stress here.
    The value and functionality of Zenome.com will take time before efficiencies are realized. As the article clearly points out: “it will rely on its users and a team of editors to build an ever expanding directory of websites”. How long will that take? Hard to say.
    But, it begs the question:
    “How much of a job boom will be realized for the positions looking for “Search Engine Editors” as more and more companies challenge Google and others to make the accuracy of Internet Searches worthwhile and complete”? The computer age is really upon us.

  • by Paul Cordery - July 21, 2005, 7:05 pm

    I for one am all for improving the Internet. Modern society has lost a lot of research skills through the “Google Effect”…mind you, even the laziest minds of today seem more likely to do some basic research for school because of a site like google -so I guess we should be thankful for that. So, where does this project fit in? Well, I hope the best for them, but in reality the will probably never topple google. Google is so convenient for the common computer user. Elementary school teachers introduce students to google as if it were the only search engine, so I can’t imagine with that early imprinting anything will likely change without some sort of catalyst. P.S. I used google to access this website!

  • by Melissa Rideough - July 21, 2005, 7:06 pm

    I know it sounds silly, but I would probably still rather Google. The name is catchier in my opinion, and easy to remember.
    I think it’s kind of cool though that some people from Montreal are trying to compete with it. Go Montreal! We rock.

  • by Ronny Pangia - July 21, 2005, 7:47 pm

    Wait a second. Haven’t we already heard the big buzz about a Montreal-based search engine making headway in the search engine world? Hasn;t anybody heard of Mamma.com? This meta search engine pretty much grabs results from many search engines to make a query its own. That firm had its glory moments (Mark Cuban’s interest in buying shares) to a brutal reality by being investigated for fraudulent activity.
    Having worked as a Project Manager for a search engine optimization firm, I can tell you that zenome.com is nowhere near the search stratosphere. We always talked about the big BIG Three (Google, MSN, and Yahoo) while the others were biting into the remnants of the 5 – 10 % available to them. I do wish Zolt Szigetvari and John Connolly all the best but they’d better hope they have the financial backings to properly promote their directory and continue pumping resources into expanding its technology.
    The next generation of search engines lies in voice-activated queries, personaliztion up to the most minute detail about your searches and edging out competitors with novelties on the technological front. MSN updated its engine last year while Google is shifting towards other services such as local maps. Let’s hope Zenome.com is planning ahead to keep up with the big boys.

  • by Marc Charette - July 21, 2005, 8:37 pm

    Google is so popular that it has turned into a verb. Very often will I hear: Did you google it?
    Zenome might become popular for users that are more knowledgeable about the Internet. But for people like me and many others who don’t make a living working with the Internet or who don’t spend their life on it, Google might remain the reliable source. It just feels very easy to use it. It just feels like I find what I’m looking for. If I came to a point where I would feel like Google is letting me down, I might give one of those other search engines a closer look but in the mean time I won’t zenome what I’m looking for but I’ll keep googling it for now.

  • by Nicolas Gauthier - July 22, 2005, 1:34 am

    Noise and silence on the web are well known issue. A noise is a search result you obtain that does not match what you are looking for. A silence is what you are actually looking for and would not find with your research. Google will give you many noises and as much silence. That’s why students everywhere should learn how search effectively.
    Zenome problems will probably arise when the creators try to make more money out of it. It’s hard to have a precise search engine on the web. I am glad some people are looking to improve our working tools.

  • by Eric Wilson - July 22, 2005, 8:29 am

    I think most people are pretty hooked to their own search engine. I was a loyal Yahoo user for the longest time. For some reason I wouldn’t try Google. Once I did, I didn’t go back to Yahoo. I find Yahoo has just too many hidden ads. I am a Googeholic!
    But I will give Zenome a try! As Google is getting bigger, dreams of profit are kicking in, and Google is also ending up with more and more ads. It’s about time we had a decent alternative! Why not Zenome?

  • by Alexander Yu - July 22, 2005, 11:52 am

    Google has been a godsend for internet researchers. It FINDS anything and I mean anything on the net. Problem is that it sends back maybe…. 10,000 hits for any search, with websites based on popularity. If anything I stop at looking at the first ten pages of hits before trying to refine it. By refining my search I usually get what I’m looking for. While Google is still the best search engine out there, the fact that so much JUNK exists on the net doesn’t help the search process.
    I’ve tried the other two sites and they just don’t help the researcher for the research. At least it doesn’t for mine because it’s an obscure subject in Mechanical Engineering. They have a lot of links to “forums” and discussion groups, but that helps little when I am looking for perhaps a paper or some sort of lecture notes to help me understand a subject.
    And while Google’s search engine is based on popularity, it is not based on the “number” of hits one site receives for the subject, but rather a combination of hits and how many other pages links to it or refers to it. They also scan any website before adding it to there database to make sure they are not copies of a website just pointing to one link so the search engine goes into it. So the engine itself is not junk and I have found a good number of sites that help me.
    And anyway research for obscure pieces of information doesn’t start at Google. It starts at a) asking experts to narrow the search (for me it’s my professors), b) looking up articles and papers at the library and it’s reduced database, and finally c) looking up what you find there on Google to refine your information. Zenome is a good idea and so is Open Directory Project, but its database and search engine just isn’t as good as Google’s. They both still got a long way to go.

  • by Stephanie Ein - July 22, 2005, 12:20 pm

    Type “monkey” into a search engine like Google, and you’re more likely to find a discounted Paul Frank t-shirt than some valid zoological information. While the internet was designed to share and access data between scientific communities, it is now flooded with commercial garbage and sleezy hype. The “Information Super-highway” is more of an “Information Supermarket”, flashing brand names like Amazon and E-Bay.
    I don’t blame Google, which has brought us this junk more efficiently than any other engine, but I’m delighted to see some young upstarts trying to clean up the market, with “smarter” searches. Good luck, boys!

  • by Carmela Sicurella - July 22, 2005, 2:18 pm

    One of my best friends son was a student at Dawson College in the Cinema & Communications from 2001 until 2003 and he had the professor John Connelly and Zsolt Sziegetvari. These are very two intelligent man who know a lot about movies. It’s good that they have created there own website where people can log on and find different resources of movie information instead of going to one site and then all the students all have the same answer. I’m so fed up of google because they don’t have information that I need sometime. I know that I will be using Zenome that has everything that I need to start my search.

  • by Jamie Yearwood - July 23, 2005, 12:20 am

    I’m happy to see that Montreal now has something hopeful to offer the online community. I’ve been a user of Dogpile for years, but this may just make me switch over. Looking for information is difficult enough without all the Adult websites trying to make a quick buck.

  • by Ryan Lobo - July 23, 2005, 12:42 pm

    Forget about googling it, try zenoming it. With this home grown business trying to get off the ground we should all try to support it especially since it won’t give us all that junk when we are trying to search.
    I have always been one to root for the little guy and to know that there is a David (Zenome) trying to knock down Goliath(google) makes me glad.

  • by Ruth N - July 23, 2005, 2:41 pm

    Well, I don’t know if Zenome has many chances of overtaking Google anytime soon, but they are certainly welcome to try. It’s all about bringing information to the people in any case, isn’t it? A process will never be improved if it isn’t questioned and revised. It could be interesting to have a directory based on user input, especially Montreal based, since that’s as close to home as you can get. The sites I hear about sometimes, some of which are difficult to find on Google, are often very useful and insightful. So I do hope this project succeeds. Healthy competition never hurt anybody.

  • by Jeremy King - July 24, 2005, 10:07 am

    I used to use AskJeeves.com (now Ask.com) and relied on that for everything.
    It’s just as easy as Google, but a lot less popular.
    One of the options I like a lot about google is their maps option, and how you can go into satellite view (actual satelite images taken from spring ’04) It’s a really neat option. Not really useful, but still cool nonetheless.
    So if zenome want’s to really compete, they are going to need a big budget, and some cool ideas (Like the satelite images)..

  • by Meghna Patel - July 24, 2005, 10:19 am

    This is one cool idea. It’s true about students always coming back with the same sources for term papers and stuff. Google is still my number 1 search engine, but maybe when it comes to my next term paper and research assignment, I’ll try this site out for myself.
    How far will it last, though? Look it up.

  • by Maria Jankovics - July 24, 2005, 3:11 pm

    Well we certainly can use better intelligence for the students and even the regular layperson such as myself perhaps then I can find things which can answer certain things in a more concise and informative way. As one of the two people mentioned Zolt Szigetvari is of Hungarian decent and a Montrealer and so am I. I hope he and his partner make it big, as their idea is excellent but would need a lot of cash incentive once it starts getting off the ground. You’ve got to have money to make money as the old proverb goes. I’ll try their site as I’ve got nothing to lose and I wish them both great success!

  • by Alain Gauthier - July 26, 2005, 7:37 pm

    I was already aware that Google, MSN and Yahoo were establishing their results from a popularity parameter. Unfortunately the popularity of a reference isn’t synonymous with credibility. So I was quite amaze when I read in this article that students were basing their researches on Google listings and other search engines of that sort. This is not serious, especially when someone is working to write an essay or a report as a college or university student… In that regard, a respectable research should be done with a library data files showing all reference books concerning one’s subject. Otherwise Google and co. are just good enough for a quick reminder or a little refresh, when someone needs to look for a notion or an information in his leisure time. Maybe Zenom will establish new standards that will give search engines a new credibility… So let’s hope Zenom will reach its goals as to offer a fear listings of references according to people’s needs.

  • by Trevor Kiernander - July 26, 2005, 9:39 pm

    If it aint broke, don’t fix it…Google is great, and sure it doesn’t find EVERYTHING you may want to look for, but if a university undergrad, or for that matter a masters student, can’t get further than googling for the information, I think there are far larger problems out there, than trying to one-up google. Google “reinvent the wheel”.

  • by Karen Sollazzo - July 28, 2005, 1:43 am

    Reading this article, the bit of information that sticks out for me is that students are relying on web sites for information for writing term papers. While I’ve found some valuable information on the net in the past–often references to where else to find information, I worry that students may take a little too much about the accuracy of information on the net for granted. Anyone can put up a web site. I can post a page that declares the earth is a cube, but that doesn’t make it true. The source of online information always needs to be questioned before it is relied upon. Furthermore, I think it would be a mistake to think simply building a better search engine will enable people to find anything. The search engine helps, but it can’t find what isn’t there. There’s still quite a bit that hasn’t made it to the net. It would be a mistake to let it slip through the web.

  • by Pedro Eggers - August 16, 2005, 7:09 pm

    Well, as someone who spends more than a little time on research I more than welcome having another option when I’m on the net. Obviously, until I feel that Zenome.com has worked out the kinks in the system and proven itself rather than being yet another flash in the pan I’ll still rely on Google.com for most of my research. Frankly it’s too early to properly weigh Zenome.com’s worth in the market, not to mention the lacklustre homesite, so I’ll kindly decline on pissing on it yet. The real story for me is that two Montrealers are actually trying to make an impact on world wide web. Pretty cool that.

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