Group Search, the next big trend?


First there was the Internet search, then the desktop search, and now it is time for what my Business 2.0 colleague Erick Schonfeld calls, “group search.” Following up on my little scooplet on Grouper-Ask Jeeves alliance, he talked to Grouper president Dave Samuel and got the confirmation.

> This is interesting because it would be one of the first times that desktop search will be extended (albeit in a limited fashion) to multiple PCs.

Erick is exactly right, and I personally feel that we might be onto something big. Grouper embedding Ask Jeeves search in its client is the most obvious example of what is really peer-to-peer search. In many ways, the first generation peer to peer clients were offering these type of search capabilities. I have started to see a grown up version of this search show up in different products. I saw this first in Mercora, which limited its search to music files.

Then Grouper-Ask Jeeves product offering. Earlier I reviewed FolderShare, which had a nifty little feature that allowed you to do desktop search amongst P2P connected computers. Today, I had a chance to meet with folks from Imeem, and they showed off their own version of “group search.” I guess, as more and more devices get connected to the Internet via broadband pipes, we will see interesting variations of search evolve.

The way I see it, there are two main challenges to this “group search.” The legal aspects of it are worrisome especially in these lawsuit-happy times following the Grokster decision. The second and perhaps the more critical challenge facing the innovators is the speed with which big companies – MSN, Yahoo and Google – will copy this group search. I saw that with desktop search when Blinkx paved the way only to be imitated later. Still, an area to keep an eye out on!



For those who used Grouper’s p2p client and want a great free alternative, there’s GigaTribe (

It allows users to share specific folders on their harddrive with friends (and vice-versa). There’s also a search function that let’s a user search multiple computers (within his/her network of friends) for a certain file.

It’s free of any adware/spyware and there’s no advertising on it. I’ll be happy to answer any questions about this application at john at tribalweb dot net.

Paul Jardine

I thought this was coming a while ago, and looked at Grouper then. It didn’t seem to take the concept very far.

What I would envisage is Google Desktop, linked to Google Talk and Community creation (groups of contacts that have a level of trust associated with them).
If I was in a community related to VoIP and I wanted to search for, say, company results for Vonage, the search can be local to my machine, or across all ‘information repositories’ (good point) in the group, or the web as a whole.
The key is the level of trust within the community.
Right now, all of the IM tools are single layer, you can create your list of contacts, but you can’t create your own IM community with its own level of presence and interaction.
Skype has the software to do it, Google has a more compelling business case, and now Google have their own IM/telephony tool (and $3 billion to take it past Skype)


What’s the difference between “Group Search” and collaborative filtering? I’m not sure I want my search results to be influenced by my peers, or if I do, then I want recommendations (not really search results).

Om Malik

alex, in the early stages of the game, perhaps searching for music files in different folders, or searching through many machines on your LAN might be the usable applications, but eventually something clever is going to evolve from all this.

f e

imeem (all of its 400 users) and sharpcast are heading in a similar direction although any of the portals getting to your PC (yahoo or google or aol or msn) will get there first and can subsidize the services as well as offer xGB space for free riding on ad-(sensed)-dollars. search across ‘my information repositories’ will happen, not just across ‘groups’.

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