Home Lavva: A New Attempt at “Social Search”

Lavva: A New Attempt at “Social Search”

After seeing how hard it is to combat the goliath that is Google when it comes to search, you almost have to wonder about anyone launching an alternative search engine these days. Are they crazy? Overly ambitious? Probably a little of both. The latest attempt to snag a little search market share comes from Lavva, a company with big ideas about social search. Instead of retrieving sites based on a search algorithm like Google does, Lavva bases its search results on what people say are the top results. According to the company, this makes search “100% democratic.” After a few test searches of our own, we can only say this: there’s a reason why Google is king. Algorithms work.

The “Social Algorithm”

In theory, the idealism which infuses Lavva sounds like a good idea. “Search powered by the people,” “results based on quality, not SEO,” “transparency,” etc. are the types of things Lavva likes to rave about when discussing their social algorithm. In practice, however, social search like this doesn’t work. Obviously, it doesn’t help Lavva’s case that very few people know their startup even exists. Without users to rank the results, there’s just no way Lavva can highlight the quality content.

Their idea just misses the mark, unfortunately. They would probably have had better luck if they overlaid their social algorithm on top of Google results, for example. That way the most relevant links would be retrieved first and then users could rank the results based on quality. (Rankings are done using little thumbs up and thumbs down icons beneath each result).

Do You Want to Chat about the News in Your Search Engine?

Another one of Lavva’s hair-brained schemes is their “News Goes Social” page. Here, the engine aggregates top stories from a select few resources (CNN, Reuters, BBC, UN News, AP) and combines those with top search terms and the top links on Twitter.

While this in and of itself isn’t entirely crazy (or entirely useful for that matter), how they want you to interact with the content sort of is. News stories have a “go social” link next to them which takes you to another page where you can chat, debate, and discuss the topic with other online searchers. After clicking through a number of these links, it was clear that no one was using this feature.

In a similar vein, users can sign into Lavva and click on the comment bubble icon under search results to leave their comments on the news story. Remember when Google tried this? Yeah, it was universally disliked then too. Frankly, this just isn’t how people want to interact with search. And if Google couldn’t make voting and commenting on search work, what hope does Lavva have?

Future Plans: Twitter and Facebook

While Lavva’s service may get a little more interesting when they release their next update which plans to incorporate search results from sites like Twitter and Facebook, we doubt that alone will be enough for Lavva to make any impact. Even a startup as promising and innovative as the social search service that was Delver didn’t make it, eventually selling out to Sears (yes, Sears!) in the end.

For now the best thing that can be said about Lavva is that it’s powered by hydroelectricity, making it one of the greenest engines around. They plan to move to a solar-based system in the future, reports Seattle tech blog TechFlash. While we’re happy that they’re concerned about the environment, going green isn’t going to be enough to make this social search attempt work.

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