Graphical Web searching gets Mooted

A new Australian search engine which claims to be the first of its kind to intuitively cluster Web search results has been forced to shut down some of its advanced search functionality and boost server capacity after just one week online due to an overwhelming surge in international traffic.

CEO of Mooter search engine Liesl Cappell said although the company had expected local traffic to the site to be heavy during its launch week, a massive surge in international interest resulting from a US Web forum pushed the company’s server capacity beyond its limits.

“We have experienced triple the level of traffic of our most ambitious target,” Cappell said. “It’s really a lovely problem to have.”

The Mooter search engine, named after “a question that can have more than one answer”, is an Australian-made Web search tool which uses intelligent algorithms to group search results into themes or “clusters” of information.

“In a traditional search a user might put in ‘travel’,” Cappell said. From the range of results brought up by this search, users may then narrow down what they’re looking for to “car hire” or “accommodation”, resulting in another list of search results, she said.

In contrast, Mooter’s search technology is based on algorithms which go out and read Web sites, defining what the dominant themes or clusters of information are within each Web site. These themes are then used to categorise results for the user in a graphic format, rather than a text-based list.

So in the case of “travel”, a user might get clusters based on “accommodation, countries or flights”, Cappell said.

Alternatively, users can use Mooter’s “all results” function to have search results listed in a similar fashion to traditional search engines. Mooter will then cluster and rank results once the user has refined their search categories.

“If the user looks at two travel sites within Australia, Mooter knows you are looking for that and will push those sites related to this theme up the list of results,” Cappell said.

Mooter focuses on the “psychology of people” to better grasp what information users are looking for, Cappell said.

“We’re looking at where technology is not related to helping humans. Searching online is very powerful, and [yet] there’s no understanding of the work we have to do,” she said.

“Two people may use the same word or phrase but are looking for something completely different.”

Mooter makes each search unique to each user because it is based on the choices the individual makes, rather than the most popularly accessed sites on the Web, she added.

Cappell said while the Australian market will dominate Mooter’s focus during its first year, the company is in the process of increasing its server capacity to cope with global traffic. All of the site’s advanced search features, including its local or international search option, should be back online by the end of this week.

Mooter has been funded by both private investment and by a Federal Government Research and Development grant and a Commercialising Emerging Technologies (COMET) grant.

Although funding has been sufficient for developing and launching the search engine, Cappell said advertising revenue will replace private investment over the next 12 months.

“We have been approached to offer a sponsored link on the search page,” she said. “We will do that in future, and it will be marked as advertising.

“Mooter will always keep clean, unbiased results.”

Mooter can be found at: www.mooter.com

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Nadia Cameron

Nadia Cameron

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