Startup Attomic Labs has a fresh take on social networking in the enterprise. It’s Gazool search engine, still in alpha, is the first enterprise-oriented, community-based metasearch tool that I’ve come across. Instead of finding relevant links by navigating a tag-cloud, users find sites by viewing one another’s searches. (Check out the image gallery to see Gazool in action).
The biggest problem with social bookmarking and tagging systems in the enterprise, and for that matter nearly any type of social software in the enterprise, is getting folk to use the darn thing. Achieving what’s called the “network effect”, where the product’s popularity all but requires others to join, is particularly difficult in the enterprise for all sort of reasons. (See my analysis of the enterprise bookmarking space for more details as to why that’s the case.)
Attomic thinks the trick is to allow users to share things they already create on their own – their searches. With Gazool, users can allow their peers to view their searches, annotate other searches, and interact with them much in the same way that they might, say, use a tag-cloud.
Gazool is a metasearch tool that will display results from other Internet search engines, Google and Yahoo today, but will be expanded to include enterprise repositories such as FileNet, Documentum, Sharepoint, OpenText, Clearstory, and leading databases, such as Oracle, Sybase, and MySQL.
When users click on a search result in Gazool, a browser window pops up displaying the requested page in it’s stripped-down, Flash-based Internet browser. The browser provides links to bookmark pages. A second button allows users to open a window that displays “Reports”. These are free form notes created copying and pasting from the web page, similar to Google Notebook. A metatag field lets users name the reports.
Gazool helps improve searches and begins to address a growing problem of unwieldy folksonomies as well. User-driven tag clouds carry the prospect of misspellings, parallel terms or simply poorly selected tags. Gazool automatically suggests additional keywords when searching. Users can then tag pages by dragging and dropping those keywords onto a given link eliminating some of the problems associated with folksonomies.
As for enterprise features, Gazool will likely authenticate against LDAP and ActiveDirectory when the product ships. Security restrictions are limited to private, public and shared for individual projects. Attomic is looking at adding restrictions at the keyword, folder, and link levels, features that will be necessary for entering into certain organizations, such as financial services.
There’s no question in my mind that Attomic offers a fresh approach in the evolution of the social software. A big question in my mind is Attomic’s deployment model. Gazool was originally conceived as a service and I can’t imagine large enterprises wanting their core data stored in an external service.
However, Attomic is looking at a different approach akin to a premise-based service within the carrier service field. This where the server continues to reside on the company’s premises and the provider, Gazool, is responsible just for upgrading and maintaining the server. Such an approach could work very well in the enterprise.
As for specific features, what I saw was very slick, but the alpha-release is still missing some of the more key capabilities. The “Organize” function, for example, will allow users to manage their keywords and links. Gazool also does not provide a user-profile page consolidating all searches, a feature that should be added once the search engine ships.
I think this last one is most important. The popularity of sharing searches will largely hinge on Gazool’s presentation. Will this, for example, be in such away that groups of individuals can easily evolve searches together? For that matter, will Attomic continue to treat search results from search engines and data repositories or integrate them together? These are just some of the questions that will need to be answered if Gazool is to be successful. I for one can’t wait to find out how Attomic will address them in the next release.