Search and Surf in Volunia - Lookout Google and Bing?

By Peter Bernstein February 07, 2012

Massimo Marchiori, who is credited with inspiring the creation of Google when in the 1990s he devised the algorithm for the Internet page ranking service “HyperSearch,” is at it again. Only this time, rather than give away a possibly great idea, the good professor (he teaches at the University of Padua and formerly taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) plans to monetize his intellectual property himself with the launch of “Volunia.”  This is not to be confused with “volumina.”

While the launch of the site has been the subject of a ton of derision – the press event with live demo starring Marchiori was deemed a disaster on a score of fronts including shedding little light on what the capability actual does or why it is a breakthrough – give him credit for creating buzz. Whether this turns out to be the “third generation of search” is certainly open to question.

Combining search and social

So what is Volumina? 

As noted in an item from Mother Nature Network, it is designed to allow users to view the components of particular websites to find the subject of interest more quickly and to interact with registered users who might be looking at the same web pages. The item quotes Machiori as saying, “The web is a living place…There is information but there are also people. The social dimension is already present, it just has to emerge…”  He even boldly predicted that he believed the functions available on Volunia would soon become normal on all the major search engines. 

For a bit more detail about what we don’t know and can only speculate about, Gigaom has a nice piece by Bobbie Johnson, “Is Volunia Italy’s answer to Google – or just hot air?”,  that has some nice conjecture along with some questions and suggestions. 

My take is that the concerns of the various articles on the launch are warranted. The execution (lack thereof) of the launch and lack of clarity about functionality and why it is different is spot on. However, since Volunia appears to be nothing more or less than search with real-time interaction with those of similar interests while surfing it raises some other questions.  

Why do I need company when searching or surfing? Worse, given growing concerns about privacy, especially in Europe about the information retention and use of personal data by Google and Facebook, how many people are going to willingly become my co-conspirators? Where does “permission” enter into the equation?   

Volunia, which is intended to obtain revenues the old fashioned way through advertising, had a very selective launch on February 6.   Indications are it will support 12 languages including Arabic, English, Japanese and Russian and will be going more global in the coming days. 

Like the rest of the industry that wants to be early on spotting “the next big thing,” I await clarification. In the meantime, I have bookmarked the Volunia home page. After all, anything tracking well on Twitter, from a respected technologist (putting aside his marketing and possible entrepreneurial foibles), deserves at least that. Stay tuned!

Peter Bernstein is a technology industry veteran, having worked in multiple capacities with several of the industry's biggest and best known brands, and has served on the Advisory Boards of 15 technology startups. To read more of Peter's work, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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