Few days back there was an article at SEJ on Relona, a search technology start-up which used unique technology to add more relevance to results from major search engines like Yahoo, MSN Live and Ask.com.
Kumar Ramanathan, Chief Technology Officer at Relona graciously answered a few questions on Relona and search via e-mail.
1. Can you provide us some information on the roots of Relona and how you got started on the idea?
I was interested in search because it is the most popular application on the web. We started work on developing algorithmic improvements for web-search in late 2005 after I conducted a comparison of the different search-engines to understand their strengths and weaknesses. We saw an opportunity in the gap between Google’s search-relevance and that of the other players.
2. Do you agree that search today is far from perfect but the search field is crowded and its time that companies looked to build on the web-databases (i.e. the major search engines repositories) in place than start from scratch?
Building on an existing web-index is cheaper and allows a startup to get to market faster. However, the owner of a web-index is unlikely to expose all the data that is in the index. So it is very difficult for a startup to produce better results based on someone else’s index. On the other hand, building a web-index is very expensive. A startup that tries to index the web will need huge resources. Continuously updating an index is also very expensive.
Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. Each startup must decide which approach will work best for them.
3. Are you pitching Relona as a technology that can be licensed or is it going to be a pure search engine?
Relona is a technology development company. We would like to license this technology to other players.
4. Its interesting that Relona uses a statistical model and takes a middle path in search query alterations as compared to pure natural language search. What advantage does Relona offer compared to major search engines with larger data repositories which could work on the same technology as Relona in-house?
Given enough time, the major search-engines can develop similar technology in-house. We believe that we are valuable because we can save them time and reduce their R&D risk.
In-house R&D is actually more risky than many people imagine. I am sure Yahoo and Microsoft thought that they would overtake Google very quickly when they embarked upon their own search development efforts in 2003-2004.
5. What is the future road-map for Relona. Are there any new offerings that you are planning to role out?
We have a few technologies that are being developed. Unfortunately I cannot comment on products that have not yet been announced.
Thank you Kumar for sharing your thoughts with us and here’s looking forward to a great future for Relona.