In this week's "Cybershake," we take a look at a new search engine that purports to offer a better way to find information online. Plus, we note a new survey that reports musicians have turned the other cheek when it comes to the Net.
'No Worries' Web Searches?
Web search engine sites have some pretty unique and sometimes suggestive names. First there was "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle," better known as Yahoo! Then came Google, a play on "googol," a mathematical expression for 1 followed by 100 zeros.
But the latest Web search engine to compete against these Net name brands is not worried. Literally.
Last Monday, Accoona Corp. in Jersey City, N.J., launched its eponymous Net search engine. The name is derived from a Swahili expression, "hakuna matata" -- the "no worries" phrase popularized by "The Lion King" animated film from Walt Disney, the parent company of ABC News.
Jonathan McCann, executive director of Accoona, claims the company's online search engine will provide results that rival powerhouses such as Google because Accoona uses "artificial intelligence."
"Our [software] technology understands the meaning of words or search terms entered in [an online] query," says McCann. "We don't only return results with the exact keywords. Our [search] technology also retrieves results on the meaning of words. We take it to a much further degree [than competitors]."
For example, McCann says that if Web users typed in "antique cars" on other search engines, the resulting list of Web sites would be those that contained only those words specifically.
But on the Accoona search engine site, "We'll also find sites that may not use the word 'antique,' " says McCann. "They may use 'vintage,' they may use 'old' or something along [those] lines."
Accoona users will also be able to refine their results with so-called "super-target" search capabilities. If a user is looking for Web sites that feature "blue suede shoes," they can select which word has more importance. Choose "shoes" and sites selling footware appear higher in the results than sites about Elvis songs, for example.
The other feature Accoona says is unique is its instant online corporate profiles. When users search for the name of a business or company, a small icon appears. If users click on it, they get basic company information such as its address, phone number and number of employees.
Aside from new technology, the company has also secured some heavy backers. Eckhard Pfeiffer, former chief executive officer of Compaq Computer, and world chess champion Garry Kasparov are investors in the company.
The Chinese government is also one of the larger backers of Accoona. It has granted the company a 20-year exclusive partnership with the China Daily Information Co., the agency that runs the nation's official Chinese and English language Web sites.
Despite the heavy tech and financial guns, some are skeptical that Accoona will make a dent in the search engine world. And early tests of the Accoona search engine produced results that were less than trouble-free.
In a recent search for "Walt Disney" on Accona, several sites selling hotels and vacation lodging near the Walt Disney World complex in Florida appeared on top of the result list before the official site for the company. During a business profile search, a spurious site -- www.diseney.net -- topped the list while the Disney site didn't appear until the ninth page.
What's more, some corporate information listed by Accoona might be considered a little less than helpful. It listed Disney's "sales volume" and "company size" as cryptic numbers -- "27061" and "112000," respectively. The general mailing address and phone number are correct. But the main "contact" person to call at Disney? None other than company CEO Michael Eisner himself.
-- Andrea Smith and Paul Eng, ABC News
The Net Is Music to Artists' Ears
For most musicians, the Internet has gone from foe to friend. Despite the nasty court battles over illegal music downloading and the hefty legal fines doled out to pirates, music artists no longer consider the Internet the enemy.
In a recent survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, self-described musical artists are approaching the Net with open arms.
"They're embracing the Internet as a tool in their creative lives that help them create their work, promote it online, sell it, collaborate with other artists and connect with their audiences," says Mary Madden, a research specialist with the non-profit research group.
According to the report, fully two-thirds of those musicians questioned say the Net is "very important" in helping them create and distribute their music. In fact, 83 percent of survey respondents said they even offer free samples of their works online.
Madden says most artists don't consider sharing music online a concern anymore, either.
"Their overall judgment is that unauthorized file sharing does not pose a major threat," says Madden. "Two-thirds of artists say peer-to-peer file sharing poses only a minor threat or not threat at all to them."
The survey interviewed over 800 self-described artists and has a 4 percentage point margin of error. The complete report, "Artists, Musicians and the Internet," is available for free at the Pew organization's Web site: www.pewinternet.org.
-- Karen Chase, ABC News
Cybershake is produced for ABC News Radio by Andrea J. Smith.