Natural Search Blog


Whitepages.com Acquiring Snapvine, Focuses On Community Development

WhitePages.com Snapvine MergerWhitePages.com is acquiring Snapvine, a service that allows people to associate audio files with various resources like social networks, photos, text, and blogs. Snapvine enables facilitates voice blogs, similar to podcasting, but perhaps with a little greater ease.

WhitePages states on their blog that they’ll use Snapvine’s technology to provide their users with free, private voicemail boxes. In addition, WhitePages will roll out other features such as email and SMS services.

I think this signals that WhitePages.com will be pursuing community development as an ongoing strategy to maintain and build their traffic. This could be a really strong strategy — encouranging community engagement could drive up usage and associated ad revenues considerably for the residential listings directory. WhitePages.com also offers yellow pages directory service through a partnership with Idearc’s Superpages.com.

Considering the rise of Twitter and other mobile phone services, VOIP applications like Snapvine could be poised to be the next big thing.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the deal likely comes in below previous valuations for Snapvine.

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New Breed of People Search Engine Launches: Spock.com

A little startup called Spock.com has moved into public beta today for their official public launch – previously they were only available to a handful of invite-only beta-testers. Spock is to white pages what Google Maps was to yellow pages – Spock is a sort of people search engine that pulls data from many different sites together to automatically form personal profiles of individuals. The service also allows one to search for people who match up with certain criteria like celebrities, kidnapped children, billionaires, sudoku fans, “journalists killed in Iraq”, “Baptist women who love to travel”, etc.

Spock logo

Spock is one of a new breed of people search engines which pulls data in from a variety of online sources including MySpace, LinkedIn, My Yahoo!, Wikipedia, company websites, blogs, and other sources to compose these composite profiles which include photos, descriptions, links to people related to the person in question, and tag lists of common keywords. Check out this search I did for “Danny Sullivan”:

Danny Sullivan search results in Spock.com
(click to enlarge)

And, here’s the profile Spock generated for the search engine marketing “Danny Sullivan”:

Danny Sullivan's profile on Spock.com
(click to enlarge)

This automatic generation of profiles from other data sources, similar to a meta search engine, is not all that new, of course – ZabaSearch has been touted for doing similar stuff to compose info on people out of various public records, sort of like a poor man’s background search. And, ZoomInfo has worked to build a directory of searchable business profiles of individuals. IceRocket also used to have a metasearch engine that pulled in data from a handful of various singles/personals sites.

What makes Spock a bit different is how they’re actively composing these profiles from sources that really haven’t been associated with one another previously, and making them publicly available, for “free” (eventually paid for by ad revenue, of course). While the general public likely hasn’t been aware of it, the CIA or NSA has actually also been working on a similar sort of search engine system which automatically composes secret dossiers of information on individuals from a multitude of sources including credit card information, criminal databases, as well as many of the same online sources used by these web services like ZabaSearch, ZoomInfo, and Spock.

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