The word "best" is included in 277 million searches a month, according to the Google AdWords keyword tool. So a search engine that could tell you what the best stuff is would be pretty handy, right?
Doubleclick co-founder Kevin O'Connor thought so too. The idea was enough to bring him out of retirement (read: surfing) to start FindTheBest.com. But how do you build an engine that can answer the variety of "best" queries from "best pizza," and "Best Picture" to "best time of the year to visit Portland"?
Well, you can't. At least, not with an algorithm.
FindTheBest.com consists of "comparison apps" - handbuilt charts that compare two or more choices side by side. Princeton vs. Harvard vs. Yale, Best Burger in America, Top 100 Golf Courses. Humans pick the comparison points - number of undergraduates, maybe - and humans scour the Internet for the most reputable source of that information - the Harvard or Yale website, for example.
FindTheBest is more of a decision engine than a search engine. "FindTheBest will remove the crap so you just have the distilled relevant data for you to make a more informed decision," O'Connor says.
O'Connor co-founded DoubleClick, the advertising network that was eventually acquired by Google for $3.1 billion, as well as Intercomputer Communications Corporation, which hit $35m in annual revenue, and was the first investor in Internet Security Systems, which sold to IBM for 1.4 billion.
How it works - manpower
So someone is looking for, say, the best James Bond movie. Or the oldest James Bond movie or the highest-grossing James Bond movie. That user may not have heard of FindTheBest.com. But hopefully, by some combinations of keywords, the user ends up at the James Bond app on FindTheBest.com. Here, all the top information about James Bond movies is arranged in an easy-to-digest table, or "app" of data points that can be paired and filtered.
And how does FindTheBest fact-check and stay up to date? More humans. "Some of that updating will be automated and some done by the researchers but we also hope experts, business owners and people who are passionate and follow a subject will also jump in and provide updates to our researchers," spokeswoman Amy Morris said in an email.
See something missing in the James Bond app? You can register and add information to be reviewed by the site's researchers.
"The semantic web just doesn't happen," O'Connor told CNN recently. "Someone's got to organize it."
Not quite there yet
FindTheBest says it has more than 500 comparison apps with more in the works. But some of the apps are not really useful - this app to compare cell phone reception, for example, was confusing and hard to manipulate in a useful way. And it's going to take a lot more than 330 hand-built spreadsheets to answer enough questions to establish FindTheBest as a destination for comparison-based decisions the way Expedia.com and other travel shopping comparison engines have.