A decade and a half ago, the world was enthralled with text — and Answers.com, the pioneering web information service, made it easy for users to learn about a topic by highlighting a word on a website and connecting to Wikipedia and other sources for definitions, history, and background information.
That was a fine idea for the early years of the 21st century, said Bob Rosenschein, creator of Answers.com — but in the new era of mobile multimedia and social-media interaction, text isn’t enough. “Users still want to get information about a term or concept you see on a web page, but nowadays there are a lot more ways to get that information than from Wikipedia,” Rosenschein told The Times of Israel.
“With Curiyo, our new information search engine, you can find images, videos, Reddit posts — as well as information from text sources. Plus, we have developed a mobile version of the service to enable users to get in touch with information anywhere, anytime. And our ‘My 2¢’ feature lets users get involved in creating content as well,” he continued.
Rosenschein long ago achieved the status of “guru,” creating, developing and directing Answers.com, one of the most popular information sources on the web. Answers.com was exactly what its name implied — a service that purported to supply answers to questions important and otherwise to web surfers. Established in 1999 (and originally called GuruNet), Answers.com became very popular after 2005, when it launched its free application.
The company went public in 2004 on AMEX (switching to NASDAQ in 2005), and was sold in 2011 for $127 million in cash to a group of investors.
Although there is no official connection between the two products, Curiyo could be seen as the 2.0 version of Answers.com. When a term is highlighted, users who have installed the Curiyo plug-in in their browser, or have downloaded the Curiyo Android app (an iOS app is on the way, said Rosenschein) will get a streamlined news feed of the most relevant posts from various social-media channels such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit, all on one screen.
The app is launching in 15 different languages, namely: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Polish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Hebrew, and Turkish. “The languages are also an important innovation,” said Rosenschein. “There are other information stream generators in English, but very few in other languages.”
Perhaps the biggest innovation in the update of Curiyo and the new app — both released last week — is the social-media component of the system. Called “My 2¢,” the feature lets users share insights by commenting via text, audio clip or short video on topics they’re passionate about. “So, working altogether, the components of Curiyo provide a total, immersive information experience about web pages that lets users not only discover new information in many different formats, but lets them comment and contribute to the community.
“Say you’re a fan of Karina Smirnoff on Dancing with the Stars. Curiyo brings together the best videos, tweets, news and voice of the fans all in one place, on a page dedicated to that subject. To get more information, users just highlight a term and right-click, and the menu of sources for further information will appear. Then, with My2¢, users will also be able to provide insights on the upcoming season, and you can chime in with your own thoughts, too,” Rosenschein explained.
“If anything is on a page that shouldn’t be there, it will be removed — either by us, or by members of the user community. It’s unlikely anyone would use this to bad-mouth others, because they can be fully identified by their social-media handles. The idea of My 2¢ is to enhance social reputations, so anyone who uses the system to spread bad messages is likely to find himself booted off a page — and booted out of the Curiyo community altogether,” he added.
Like Answers.com, Curiyo is based in Jerusalem, something Rosenschein insisted on. “This is a great town for technology, and, like Answers.com, we have been very pleased with the level of talent and ability here.” Besides working with members of the extended “Jerusalem family,” Rosenschein is also developing Curiyo with his son Akiva, who heads Product Management.
“Curiyo really is a unique offering,” said Rosenschein. “Between the many opportunities for interacting with data and the international language aspects, it’s a very powerful system. I’m not one to make aggressive statements, but I really think we are on to something here.”