Biz Stone, Co-founder of Twitter, Returns to Social With New Search Engine Jelly

By Steve Anderson January 08, 2014

The search engine as we know it is both much beloved and much hated, often within minutes of each other. Using a program to try and winnow down the enormous amounts of information out there can be a hit-or-miss practice even in the best of times. But Biz Stone, who had a hand in the formation of Twitter, is looking to the social circle once again, and this time, as a way to make search engines better overall. To that end, he's starting the mobile app known as Jelly, and instead of turning to algorithms and search fields, he's turning to people and networks.

In Jelly, users follow friends, much like in a standard social network. But in this case, users turn to the network when there's an issue or something needing found. Should the user's current network be unable to help with the information provided—presented in the form of a regular text query or even a photograph—the query can then be forwarded outside the app in order to find one.

Jelly doesn't necessarily bill itself as a better search engine, according to reports, but rather a way that improves on search by introducing an element of “fun” to it. A blog post found on Jelly notes “No matter how sophisticated our algorithms become, they are still no match for the experience, inventiveness and creativity of the human mind. Jelly is a new way to search and something more—it makes helping other people easy and fun.” Jelly got its start back in April, and can currently be found on iOS and Android, with iOS users ranking it an aggregate 3.5 stars out of five.

Admittedly, Jelly as a curiosity might well do well on the public stage. It could be a good way to find quick information on comparatively simple topics using everyday human language. The results, however, may leave something to be desired. For instance, one use involved a user taking a picture of a local art installation known as The Spire by Andy Goldsworthy, and receiving a response that involved not only the name and the creator of the piece, but also that it was made from trees in the surrounding area.

The problem with something like this, though, is one of validity. Asking a group of friends to identify a local landmark could, as above, treat the user to an accurate description of a local art installation or it could instead open up the field to carefully-crafted lies. Personally, I have no way of verifying if that description of The Spire is correct. If it declared instead that Sara Thompson or Phil Sanders created The Spire as opposed to Andy Goldsworthy, how could I tell the difference? A more standard search engine would return more standardized results, though it would be possible to use a regular search engine to vet Jelly's results.

There's no denying that Jelly--and by extension social search--is a clever idea, though its ultimate value will likely be decided by the depth of each user's social network. Those users without a lot of friends may find it hard to get answers out of Jelly, and so too those users without a lot of knowledgeable friends. Still, it certainly does inject a note of fun into search, and that's the kind of thing that might make Jelly the go-to source for information for more than a few users.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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