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DoubleClick Founder Launches Structured "Decision Engine" FindTheBest.com

At first blush it wasn’t impressive to me. I assumed from a quick look that FindTheBest was just a collection of links and “best of” lists. It thus seemed strange that DoubleClick founder Kevin O’Connor would come out of quasi-retirement to launch a basic directory site. But as we got into it a bit more it was clear there was a larger and more interesting project going on.

FindTheBest is a kind of comparison engine for structured data of all sorts. It’s not an alternative to search per se. In fact it will rely heavily on search and SEO for user discovery. The idea is to provide consumers with an objective way to compare all sorts of information across a range of categories, from colleges to fast food.

Here’s what founder O’Conner said about what motivated him to create the site:

FindTheBest.com was created out of my desire to organize part of the Internet, filter out the excessive junk and present information in a simple, comparable way. While the web is great at making seemingly infinite amounts of information accessible, the Internet can be a little overwhelming in that it doesn’t allow for straight up apples-to-apples comparisons, nor is it transparent enough to allow you to spot those hidden marketing schemes influencing the data you receive.

Here are the current categories that FindTheBest offers comparison data for:

  • Arts and Entertainment
  • Business and Economy
  • Education
  • Health
  • Reference
  • Science
  • Society
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Technology

The metaphor, as the video below suggests, is travel meta search (e.g., Kayak).

After a user does a search or picks a category of interest, she’s presented with a semi-wonky spreadsheet-like display of factual information. Here’s an example comparison for the nutritional information of McDonald’s burgers:

A menu, so to speak, on the left allows users to filter and refine the comparisons — in this case by type of food item, as well as by calories, fat, cholesterol and so on — just as with product or travel search sites. These topic-specific data sets are called “comparison apps” by O’Connor.

O’Connor told us that the data come from a broad range of sources, including government databases, private sources the site’s own researchers and, eventually, users. FindTheBest uses a mix of machines and humans to clean and present the data in a more structured and “consumable way,” with automation being the objective, if possible.

Here’s another comparison of the most recent World Cup champions:

Right now FindTheBest offers 336 “comparison apps” in nine categories. These include 31,372,000 listings and 881,837,794 data points, according to the site.

Even with all that information, if it hopes to become a destination, FindTheBest will need to further broaden coverage. However O’Conner says the site won’t get into products or travel, two areas that inspired FindTheBest and that he believes are relatively well  handled online today.

As you drill deeper into the site you discover lots of rich factual information, much of which is very search/SEO friendly. Here’s a profile-level page for the top grossing film Avatar, for example:

Another search-friendly feature, somewhat buried in the site, is Questions. Q&A is a hot area right now (Ask, Facebook, etc.) and FindTheBest has its own version of that, though it seems mostly intended to attract SEO traffic rather than engage users.

Many if not every fact on the site has an alternative presentation in Q&A form:

Beyond SEO, as a discovery mechanism, any of the comparison modules can be embedded on third party sites or blogs and there are also embeddable category widgets that FindTheBest hopes will spread the word.

While incomplete and rough around the edges at this early stage FindTheBest offers structured factual comparisons, to help support consumer decision-making, that one cannot do right now on search engines. In this way, FindTheBest struck me as something like the more talented offspring of Wolfram Alpha and Google Squared.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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