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Friday, June 17, 2005

GuruNet's Answers.com versus Wikipedia and widgets (GRU)

In his keynote address to the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, CEO Steve Jobs highlighted the availability of new "widgets", small programs that provide easy-to-use functionality on the desktop.

One of his favorites? A widget that allows the user to search Wikipedia by keyword and delivers the results to the user's desktop.

Quick comments:

  • Can't be good for GuruNet (ticker: GRU) which uses Wikipedia content for its Answers.com service. It's now easier for Apple users to search Wikipedia directly than to use Answers.com.
  • Wikipedia is rapidly becoming the best available general reference source due to the quality and volume of its user-generated content. It's hard to see how GuruNet, which doesn't own the content accessed by Answers.com, can compete with ever-improving user interfaces for Wikipedia.

GRU chart below.

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Posted by David Jackson on June 17, 2005 at 12:26 PM in Sub-sector: Content, Sub-sector: Search, ticker: GRU | Permalink


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I like your blog, but I've got to disagree with you on a couple of points here.

Two observations:

a) Answers.com is not simply a front-end to Wikipedia--answers.com provides data from over 100 other sources as well.

b) If answers.com finds no match for my query, it automatically gives me a Google-powered result, which Wikipedia doesn't do.

To me, the two above items are strong reasons to use answers.com, rather than Wikipedia (or Google) as my default search engine.

Compare Wikipedia and Answers.com results on these searches to see what I mean:
"thoracoscopy", "867-5309", "internetstockblog"

Finally, I disagree that it's now easier for Apple users to search Wikipedia directly than to use Answers.com.

I use Firefox on a Mac myself, and I use answers.com as my default search engine in the upper right-hand corner. For me, typing search strings there is easier than going to the Dashboard, locating a widget, and then typing a search string there. (Also, I think GuruNet could rather easily produce a similar Dashboard widget if necessary).

Posted by: Tom Nelson | June 17, 2005 03:58 PM

That's a thoughtful and interesting comment. Thank you.

Posted by: David Jackson | June 17, 2005 04:10 PM

Further thoughts on your comment:

1) Wikipedia is rapidly growing into an all-encompasssing reference source. As it continues to improve, Answers.com's strategy of integrating content from multiple sources will be less of an advantage. For that reason, Wikipedia poses a serious threat to Answers.com.

2) I agree with your point about the convenience of in-browser searching, and have made exactly that point with respect to Microsoft being a threat to Google. But the point here is that new front-ends to Wikipedia will emerge which will get ever more convenient. People will be able to search Wikipedia easily. Since Answers.com is a content aggregator plus a front-end, that also poses a threat to Answers.com.

Posted by: David Jackson | June 20, 2005 09:15 AM


It sounds like we may agree that Answers.com currently leads Wikipedia in both areas (Answers.com has both better content and a better front end). I agree that Wikipedia may close the gap in the future. However, as long as Answers.com uses Wikipedia, I don't see how Wikipedia alone can provide better content than Wikipedia + 100 or more other data sources.

I don't see this as a "winner-take-all" situation--I personally believe that both Answers.com and Wikipedia may thrive in the next few years. (Not only Coke is a winner in the soft-drink business; of course there's money in Pepsi, Dr Pepper and other brands as well). At a $100M market cap, Gurunet doesn't have to capture and hold 100% of the market to do well from here; I think they can easily justify that valuation as a small niche player.


Posted by: Tom Nelson | June 20, 2005 11:06 AM

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