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Prefound.com Finds It First

David A. Utter
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-02-02

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The company behind the Hydralinks technology has moved its user-generated content search engine into public view.

People do better at finding topics relevant to questions. Even Google, for all its engineering skill and algorithmic power, doesn't know guitars from fish when someone types "bass" into its search box. Humans do, though, which is good because people can't tune a piano like they can tuna fish.

The users who deliver results to Prefound make the experience that much better for the next searcher who comes along. Currently, Prefound requires users to download its PFfinder toolkit to save links and categorize them.

Once finished, users can upload their links back to Prefound's index. Once there, they become part of the social search environment that has become very popular, through the use of sites like Delicious.

Prefound co-founder Steve Mansfield addressed the topic of ease-of-use for me during a recent talk. I asked about other options for getting information into Prefound, such as bookmarklets instead of a downloaded tool.

He noted that the company was working on other options for getting information into the Prefound index. But the first issue that Prefound has to address is a "chicken and egg" situation; they need users to build that content, but how to draw the users?

Mansfield said he recognized Prefound needs to earn the trust of users, and thinks that the updates they have planned will go a long way to bringing new users to the service. There are a lot of users who don't occupy the hardcore techie demographic that Mansfield thinks dominates the tagging/bookmarking space now.

Results from queries to Prefound do pass the relevance test. I try to toss a couple of fringe topics at new sites just to see how they handle them. Prefound did list relevant links at the top of search results for musician Junior Wells and a superhero roleplaying game called Mutants and Masterminds.

If Prefound can build some buzz and grow its userbase, especially with the challenge presented by competing services like Yahoo! Answers, it stands a chance of making its mark online. The challenge for Mansfield and company will be to get that growth going quickly.

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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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