Become.com is a vertical search engine specialized in shopping. The growth of a shopping vertical isn't that surprising consider the explosion of e-commerce on the web, but there is lots of competition, especially from new services like Froogle which, on a side note, just started offering Geo-targeted results, and Yahoo Shopping.
Become.com has some experience from its start-up veteran founders: Michael Yang and Yeogirl Yun. They founded the comparison shopping site MySimon and sold it at the height of the dot come boom to CNet for some serious cash -- smart people. If two people are going to take on shopping, at least they have some experience with comparison shopping -- but this time they decided to take their idea to the next level and combine research with comparison shopping.
Become.com has two modes -- shopping and research. As soon as I saw this it immediately said to me: Yahoo! Mindset. However, instead of having this slider that dynamically filters results, they have created something much simpler. KISS -- not to mention that us cs geeks like binary choices. Interestingly enough, Globalspec also has the same two modes, although not as explicitly defined: research (The Engineering Web) and product search (SpecSearch).
The research side of Become is a 3+ billion page web index, purpotedly emphasizing review and informational sites. The shopping mode is very much like MySimon, finding products from store feeds. I think the best new "cool" feature they have is the ability to start doing other types of Faceted Search, allowing filtering by features beyond price, on things like brand name. It would be cool if they could extend this to something more powerful -- like Specsearch for consumers -- which would allow me to perform very precise product searches based on precise specifications. However, I may not be the typical user and perhaps a text search is good enough for most people.
I am going to be keeping my eye on Become. They have been hiring people with search engine expertise to enter the market. One thing the founders of Become.com have is chutzpa -- it takes guts to go head to head against Google's main product offerings. However, Become.com seems like it is heading in the direction by assembling an experienced leadership team culled from veterans of Ebay, AltaVista, Overture, Yahoo, and Sun. For example, they recently hired Jon Glick as "Senior Director of Product Search and Comparison Shopping" (interesting job title, what does he really do?). From their press release:
Glick joins Become.com from Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) where he headed Product Management for Yahoo!'s web crawling, indexing, search relevancy, and assisted search initiatives. He was an instrumental part of the team that launched Yahoo!'s in-house web search in 2004, displacing Google (NASDAQ: GOOG).While I was working on some side programming projects (more on these soon) I made the jump to Java 1.5. While perusing Sun's site, I ran across a very interesting article about Become.com and their creation of a large scale web crawler using Java 1.5. I had never heard of Become.com before, but the article was very informative and impressed me. From the article:
The company has successfully created a Java technology web crawler that may be the most sophisticated, massively scaled Java technology application in existence, obtaining information on over 3 billion web pages and writing well over 8 terabytes of data (and growing) on 30 fully distributed servers in seven days.I honestly don't believe their crawler is the most sophisticated massively scaled java technlogy app in existence, but I won't start a rant on it. I would highly recommend the Sun article to everyone interested in Java 1.5 or web crawlers. Interestingly enough, I believe the Internet Archive is also using Java 1.5 for their Heritrix crawler on an AMD Opteron platform... but that's also another story. The real story is that this article prompted me to check out Become.com and I thought it was especially relevant to share because of the holiday season:
It looks like they are serious, and they have the cash and the courage to do it. For now, I am going to go give it another go as I do my Christmas shopping.
Silicon Beat's coverage of the new SE from Feb 05.
SE Watch's Coverage of the April launch
Geeking with Greg on Yahoo! MindSet