Startup plans Aussie blog search engine

Summary:Melbourne-based tech startup Feedcorp has spent the last year indexing thousands of content feeds generated by Australian Web sites and blogs, and plans to launch a localised search engine next month. "We've developed our Aussie blog search engine to the prototype stage," the company's founder Ben Barren told ZDNet Australia this week.

Melbourne-based tech startup Feedcorp has spent the last year indexing thousands of content feeds generated by Australian Web sites and blogs, and plans to launch a localised search engine next month.

"We've developed our Aussie blog

gnoos
search engine to the prototype stage," the company's founder Ben Barren told ZDNet Australia this week.

Feedcorp's Australian answer -- dubbed 'gnoos' -- to international services like Technorati and Google's Blog Search will index not only blogs but also more traditional online news sources like ZDNet Australia itself that provide content feeds through an increasingly popular format known as Really Simple Syndication (RSS).

"When we launch late February, you'll be able to read the latest posts from thousands of Aussie blogs, and then subscribe to your favourites," Barren said.

According to the entrepreneur, who's a veteran of early down under online entrants like Sensis, ninemsn and Virtual Communities, the number of Australian blogs may be vast but still undifferentiated from the Internet masses.

"In 2005 it was estimated that there were approximately 450,000 Australian blogs, with ninemsn announcing that MSN Spaces had broken through the 100,000 local blogs barrier early in the year," he said.

"Globally [Microsoft's] MSN has estimated one-third of its 20 million plus Spaces blogs are active," he added. "So if you combine that with the estimate that there will be 150 million worldwide blogs in 2006 ... we estimate there will be 750,000 blog accounts in Australia in 2006; with 10 percent publishing monthly and 5 percent weekly."

"The challenge was to separate the Australian from the global blogs; sounds easy, but but it has taken us months to solve this problem."

"I myself am reading over 300 Aussie blogs a day," enthused Barren. "I am constantly amazed at the quality and true blue flavour of these blogs which cut it with the best of the more experienced US bloggers."

Bringing the revolution down under
In a wider sense, Barren sees his blog search engine as a way to bring next-generation Web services technologies like RSS to an Australian population who in the main hasn't yet heard of them.

"[RSS] transforms the Internet experience as much as the browser did when it was launched, and most Australian consumers have no idea about it, because few of the Australian online services yet offer it," he said.

"In some ways it's the sequel to search engine optimisation -- however it's focused on content optimisation and syndication, not just advertising."

In line with this vision, Feedcorp is interested in filtering other technologies such as online photo sharing popularised by services such as Flickr (which was acquired by Yahoo in March 2005), podcasts, and even video and bookmark sharing. The eventual aim is always to find the Aussie content.

Collectively services providing these and other online innovations utilising advanced Web coding methodologies such as AJAX have come to be known as Web 2.0, although some analysts prefer to talk about the 'social' Web, as most of the tools emphasise sharing information between parties.

"I see Web 2.0 as the period that came after 'dot com' and 'dot bomb'," said Barren. "There is no doubt that Web 2.0 is better than the dot bomb period, in which very little innovation happened in Australia, if you look at Web sites launched in that period that are successful now."

"Ironically, Web sites are like wineries and most startup businesses: most fail and take seven to eight years to reach early maturity."

"Unfortunately, Australia's Internet startup community went into hibernation during the early 'noughties', but there are a range of us [now] with local and global ambitions."

Some of those startups are Sydney-based online to-do list Remember the Milk, Omnidrive (headquartered in Wollongong) and Melbourne's The Podcast Network.

Feedcorp itself is still a minnow, with three or four staff members, although Barren emphasises he "would love to hear" from any Python, AJAX and/or Web 2.0 interface gurus. Like Omnidrive, Feedcorp is also seeking investors.

The company also works with enterprises who are interested in RSS feeds and how they can help deliver content. Ben Barren's own blog can be found here.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Browser, Enterprise 2.0

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