Accoona: Time to Worry?

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Accoona: Time to Worry?

Last Fall general purpose (as opposed to niche) search engine Accoona launched to considerable media fanfare. Yes the name does come from the Swahili phrase “acoona matata,” popularized in the U.S. by the Disney film The Lion King. Though I’m sure everyone already knows, the meaning of the phrase is “no worries.”

The company just announced that it was adding a free version of Dun & Bradstreet’s business database (hoping to get some mileage and new attention out of that).

The earlier media attention centered on the fact that the company’s technology involves “artificial intelligence” (allegedly) and the fact that Bill Clinton performed the first search (they donated money to a Clinton-favored charity apparently). It’s also run by Eckhard Pfeiffer, the former CEO of Compaq. And it’s got a strong presence in China—one of its investors is China Daily Information Services, which operates the largest English-language Web site there.

All of those things are to varying degrees impressive. Yet, but for Accoona’s China connection, I’d be tempted to say “stick a fork in them”—to use the American colloquialism. Why?

I’m now repeating myself for the umpteenth time when I say that no search engine going head to head with Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Ask Jeeves, AOL, etc. will succeed unless it’s very obviously better. And Accoona is clearly not. Thus it’s not going to get more than 1% market share (if that)—ever.

So, what does the company do once it comes to terms with this? It morphs into a specialized business information search engine in the U.S. and pays more and more attention to its Chinese operation. The latter may make the company viable or may set it up to be acquired if it has real market share.

As A9’s Udi Manber has often said, “Search is not a solved problem.” I agree, but it’s a cocky and naive move to enter the general search market without a clear value proposition to consumers.

So perhaps it’s time for Accoona to start worrying a bit.

Greg Sterling is managing editor of The Kelsey Group. He also leads The Kelsey Group’s the Interactive Local Media program, focusing on local search. Greg came to The Kelsey Group from TechTV’s “Working the Web,” the first national television show dedicated to e-business and the Internet.

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