Get Wowd

Get Wowd

Image by jurvetson
Wowd has entered private beta testing, and I got some invite keys for my flickr friends if you want to give it a whirl. Feedback on the concept and implementation are welcomed.

In short, Wowd has built a fully distributed search engine. No server farm. No web crawlers. It’s like the Skype of real-time search.

Besides changing the cost, and data center energy equation for a new entrant, we think this architecture will have some interesting implications. Instead of relying on content or link analysis for page rank, which is architected – and sometimes gamed – by the publishers on the web, Wowd relies on the real-time surfing behavior of real people. It’s hard to game the behavior of the crowd in the cloud as this scales. So, you get the real-time web, the social web, and over time, the deep web. Think of all those sites that block web crawlers or are hopelessly out of date in search results today – from social networks, to eBay and Craigslist to various niches, like used car sites.

It has been quite exciting to see the product in development over the years. When the founder, Boris, first came to us, he had a bold vision and a smart team of young developers in Serbia. It reminded me of the Skype team from Estonia in so many ways. Boris and I spoke with the founders or original programmers at most of the major search companies, and they opined that it couldn’t be done (with reasonable system latency). That made it all the more interesting, and we seed financed the company. In full disclosure, I am also on the Board.

We thought that we would need many thousands of users before the distributed search engine would “work” and that early search results would be skewed by small numbers, biased by a disproportionate number of Serbs =). It is fascinating to watch in the early days, as many of the properties of the system are emergent, and the quality and performance of the system should improve with scale.

So, if you want to play with it, the link below should take you past the gates to the Wowd site. Please do so only if you are curious and willing to play with early code. It is a browser app that works across Windows, Mac and Linux. If you like it, great, if not, please keep it open and check in from time to time to see if it has improved, and of course, constructive feedback is even better. OK, so here’s the private beta Invite Link. Click on the "Get Wowd" button there to join the Wowd cloud.

• Recent article and video in readwriteweb (their invite keys ran out, fyi)
• Blogs: Wowd, Boris’ Distributed Search

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16 Responses to Get Wowd

  1. Sayran says:

    thanks for sharing

  2. Vin0x64 says:

    Looks quite interesting. Will sure test it. — Seen on my Flickr home page. ( ?² )

  3. jurvetson says:

    Thanks! Two new nodes just joined the Wowd cloud from here. Cool.

  4. Jeff Clow says:

    Am having a hard time downloading, Steve…..when I click the button on the site that you linked to, it doesn’t do anything. Any ideas? I’m running Windows XP….

  5. gdsanders says:

    Cool. I’ll check it out.

  6. born1945 says:

    Thanks Steve. I have downloaded the app and will use it in conjunction with other search engines I use. It certainly is a different idea than Google, etc. It will be interesting to see how it fills in over the next few months. To others, I recommend the VIDEO for a quick idea of how it all works.

  7. jurvetson says:

    Jeff – if you click the blue button on the top right, does it take you to a page with links for the various computer types?

  8. weaklid says:

    Wowd reminds me of the first time this was done, back in the late 90s. Anyone remember Peer 2 Peer? Infrasearch? Gone Silent?

  9. Jeff Clow says:

    Yes, but when I click on Windows, nothing happens….

  10. TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ says:

    Checking it out. You know this interests me muchly. My first question of the relevance system to crawl and show pages is: how the newcomers get into play if the system only rewards with visibility to sites with an already large audience? My web can be good and relevant to the people searching for related content but if I am new nobody will find me in Wowd? How do I gather that momentum? This look very 2.0-type-of-sites-oriented, yet a major part of the web is not 2.0 and will not be (not all websites apply to that format, thinking that is forcing form over substance, which is a mistake, imo). Anyway, I look forward to the answer, as a user and as a web designer and a SEO specialist, but I celebrate all the efforts in making a better web by the hand of a better index of it.

  11. TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ says:

    FYI, when I click on Windows to download, also nothing happens, like to Jeff. 😉

  12. jurvetson says:

    Strange…. Asking them …. That link seems to work on Windows 2000 and Macs… looking for XP… 12 new cloud members so far today – maybe all Mac users. =) To your first question: a new site does not have inbound links either. Human attention might flock to items of value more quickly than new inbound links followed by crawlers. I do admit that it puts the SEO and structural consultants at risk… Not sure I understand the second question, but we may find that archival search needs to lean more on contextual cues or personalized search (the next feature set).

  13. jurvetson says:

    commence fire drill in Belgrade….. "please tell your friends that we’ve been swamped w/ interest, that the web site itself is responding slowly or not at all right now, and that the team behind the site is working furiously to bring it back"

  14. Bill York says:

    Hey everyone. I am the VP of Engineering for Wowd. As was said, we had some issues with searches timing out on the web site, stemming from the surge of interest from Steve’s post and the ReadWriteWeb post. We think those are resolved now. In any case, if you download and run the local client things should work fine. However, I don’t see anything on our side showing the download link failures some people have reported here. If anyone would like to pursue this further or help debug it, please contact me at bill.york at Finally, @GiselaGiardino, the way Wowd handles new pages is that the first Wowd user who finds a new public page causes it to be added to the index in a couple of minutes, after which it is available for any future searches. Textual content, inbound links and human visits to the page are all factored in to the ranking. Also, the Wowd Hot List shows the pages that are INCREASING in popularity the fastest right now, not the ones that are already the most popular, so a new page that has some buzz should show up there even if the total visitor count is still low. Hope that helps.

  15. TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ says:

    @Steve: True in part.(imo) New sites sometimes *do not have* inbound links, sometimes *they do* to speed up web crawling, yet also Google / Yahoo / Etc allows you to add it manually to their index and you have tools like Webmastertools to help Google trace an categorize/rank your website. Wowd doesn’t put SEO consultants at risk, I guess, as per what Bill York mentions as the way to get indexed: Someone had to find your web somewhere else and it’s added… so you still have to be visible first somewhere else or do it yourself the finding to be indexed at wowd. OK. I just didn’t knew the procedure. :) As per the second part, there’s a difference in between "web2.0" kind of sites (blogs, networks, shared content sites, wikipedia…) and normal "window" sites where the owner displays information alone, there’s no user generated content, there’s nothing being asked to the user but to read and if they are interested do something (contact, buy, link, etc). The normal institutional websites work that way. I sensed that Wowd works more or less like delicious, technorati and the other crawlers which are fed by user generated actions, like votes, reviews, comments, etc… (am I wrong? correct me please) which belongs to the era 2.0. Ordinary websites tend to stay out of this stream of 2.0 relevancy. Some may say: "then turn your website to a web-2.0 kind of one!" Sure, but my opinion is that, if your website does not fit that format, your service or product, you just shouldn’t use the 2.0 format, and find other means of relevancy (ordinary SEO). Anyway, this explanation doesn’t matter much. As long as there are algorithms to follow relevancy based on behaviour, there will be people able to tackle them to their best advantage despite genuine deserving of getting visibility. It’s a double razor. Just like democracy. Just like marketing. It’s an ethical stance and a system which permits ethical detours because it’s naturally not perfect. I just read about Google adding a Sidewiki feature, for example… so people can comment on websites as aside notes… I wonder how they are going to filter the comments out, and I also wonder if this comment feature will impact in the rankings (rewarded in someway). If they don’t, comments will be really authentic. If they do, I guess we will just witness another spam trend like that on blog comments, of here in flickr, too. ‘Tis a complicated issue this search engine / wbe index thing! And the SEO is one side of it… the other aspects are fastness, integrity, hardware, software, etc. I’m in this since 2000 and still reading and talking about the same problems! Wish you much success with Wowd, I’ll stay tuned! 😉

  16. NYC.andre says:

    FYI – no problem downloading or installing (XP) the local client. That was at 9/23/09 11:19pm EST, the client runs OK but often "timed out" somewhat improved, but still hiccupping 4am EST. Understandable, it ‘s private beta .. Updated 6am EST this is likely due on my end to software protection (firewall, antivirus. antispyware). Will contact the techs to let them know. First impressions: generic searches are different enough from Google’s – avoids a lot of repetitive similar links, and sometimes points out to more interesting links earlier in the search. I like the option of ranking search results by either popularity or freshness, and the (as yet untested) search own history capability. – the search from own history sounds like a great idea – once it is built up. Not clear if the search history *and* viewed pages are saved locally – if not saved, then the dead link issue is a problem. If saved that would be great, would save filing time. -curious if WOWD will index *all* my search history or only searches made from the WOWD interface (a rethorical question, clearly only from the WOWD interface, and only when I have started the WOWD client). This means I’d have to make some commitment to using exclusively W for search, an uncertain proposition, while I know the established G search is OK. Hmm .. An interesting possibility would be to let WOWD collect my non-WOWD searches with Google and even other websites (with appropriate filters/ permissions). – if my W history and web recommendations are only saved locally does that means I can only use one computer .. and if it crashes this is all gone.. I know it isnt going to be that black and white, some clarification might help – is W twitter like, in the sense that I could specify somehow who my preferred peer searchers are (with their authorization..)… – the general idea of using users actual searches for ranking and the cloud of users machines to bypass the ram/ hard drive latency bottlenecks and offload cpu to peer machines sounds pretty smart and ambitious -this must be getting Google’s engineers busy – or maybe they’ll be interested in an acquisition 😉 Thanks for giving us an early look into this new tech development. Didn’t mean to write so much here, will look for the appropriate forum.

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