At the Crossroads of Media, Culture and Technology

Is Qwiki the future of search?

Earlier this year, Corey posted about Qwiki, a startup whose investors include Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, Groupon co-founders Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky, and YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim.

Qwiki has opened its alpha release to the public since January. With its stated objective to “deliver information in a format that’s quintessentially human – via storytelling instead of search”, Qwiki has generated great interest, even hyped by media as the “next Google.”

Qwiki turns text based search into a multimedia experience that is similar to combining search results of Google, YouTube and Wikipedia all on the same page. Test drives show Qwiki is more interesting than practical at this point, although it holds great promises in areas that perhaps wasn’t initially intended.

Here are two reasons Qwiki will not replace Google:

  • First, Qwiki is indexed to words, not sentences, which is its greatest limitation to replace search. From its inception, it is suited for only a subset of subjects. This is the same way that Wikipedia has been so successful yet never a threat to Google.
  • Second, while multimedia is great for those who seek the story, the format severely limits the amount of information presented on the screen. Video and voice is inherently time consuming, they are great for interaction, entertainment, education and illustration. But they are inefficient as carriers of raw information.

Google’s strength is still with the simplicity and efficiency of text, as it can transmit and present the most information on the least screen for the searcher to choose from. Google is not always correct, but it doesn’t need to be. Users provide their own intelligence. Qwiki, on the other hand, attempts to digest and select information, and “tell the story” with sound and video. Therefore it is a much more difficult task to present the “right” information to the audience. For example, the word “Washington” could have different meanings. Qwiki has done a better job with its search prompt feature, which displays multiple items as user types, thus allowing the audience to participate in the selection. As shown, the word “Amazon” brought up a number of different subjects.

Qwiki as a search tool is elementary at best, its multimedia style of presentation is more pretty than it is useful for in-depth information. But Qwiki has its shining places.

It is naturally suited for people and places, as well as entertainment, scientific and educational subjects.

Its social media potential is also promising, as it can be the hub of a particular subject, which extends to conversation between interested parties. Qwiki also said that it will provide a service later this year that allows people to merge their Facebook and LinkedIn data, along with other online content, into a personal “Qwiki”.

Qwiki has almost instant commercial value due to its word based categorization. For example, companies will use Qwiki as a great PR outlet, cities can promote tourism, and new film launches will find its multimedia format a natural fit.

Qwiki is not the future of search, but it may be among the new contenders in online media to watch for.

This post is categorized in: Business

About Sean Wang

Sean has degree in Electrical Engineering, worked on some of the earlier dotcom media sites, currently working in enterprise internet infrastructure and IP networking. Born in Shanghai, Sean hopes to combine his technical knowledge, bridging capabilities, and join the digital media community to explore new online innovations.

One Response to Is Qwiki the future of search?

  1. Karen says:

    This is so cool. I hadn’t heard about it before so I am glad you brought my attention to this tool. A quick search of my hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska brought me right back home!

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