Like.com promises to be the next biggest thing in search. So, how is like.com different than any other search engine. Like.com is a visual search engine, allowing us to search for items by their appearance, rather than just text. Their theme could have been ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ and it would be so true.
A lot of you might have been well aware of Riya. Riya was one of the first darlings on the web 2.0 world. It lauched with the objective to make facial and object search as simple and easy to use as text search.
What Riya used to be? Riya’s original theme was to use face recognition to make personal photos identifiable without explicitly tagging them or using labels. Riya’s method proved to be so popular that to date, they have over 10 Million photos uploaded by users in around 7 months. Comparing them to the most popular photo management and sharing application right now, Flickr took around 2 years to hit its 10 Million photo mark.
So what algorithmic prowess powered Riya? Riya performed its image recognition tasks based on a learning system which probabilisticly just learns whether the face is right or wrong. Keep feeding the system examples and achieve a base line to determine whether or not the answer returned matches the query performed. It also used contextual recognition to identify a face based on their nose, jewellery, clothes etc.
The switch from Riya to Like.com: According to Riya’s CEO Munjal Shah, where riya.com represented the company web 1.0 effort, like.com is their web 2.0 front. One of the reasons for their switch was that riya’s customer base did not search their own photos everyday. An equally important reason was that riya1.0 did not allow them to make any money out of it. Hence when they switched to like.com, they are focussed on products which together constitute a $30 Billion online market.Imagine the power to be able to take this industry to a whole different level by allowing people to search for exactly what they want and not just describe what they want as they do through any other search engine.
Motive behind like.com and how Riya managed to acquire it. Like.com is being built as a visual search engine, looking for things that are similar. Like.com fits the bill perfectly. As expected, like.com was not a domain that was freely available. In order to acquire this domain, looking up the owner through whois or emailing him did not work. So they tracked him down to his address, left a nice bottle of champagne along with their contact info. That seemed to have done the trick as the guy calls Riya back and bought it out for $100,000. Other names which Riya considered for their new initiative was better.com which was being quoted at $450,000. In the end, like.com it was. This is a pretty smart move too with respect to search engine rankings as any query you type in say ” I really like the Halo Master Chief costume” and you can be sure, like.com would be right up there with an answer to your query.
So, what is like.com. What are the brains behind it.. and what about the people behind this brain? Like is a visual search engine, the first on the web, where you can submit a photo as your query. Right now, for their initial launch, the search works best for aesthetic products such as shoes, shirts, jewellery, handbags. This is a feature lacking in most of the search engines out there as it is something that can’t be described in text… stuff with designs, china patterns in anything less than a paragraph. They are launching with about 200 merchants such as Amazon, eLuxury, ice.com, ShoeBuy, Zappos etc and about 2 million unique products. However, expect this number to significantly grow within the next couple of weeks. They are launching with 1000 cores or 250 servers with 16Gigs of RAM on each of these machines to handle the tremendous amount of image processing. This huge amount of processing power is needed because like also lets you dig into more details of a picture which compare a section of the visual signature of each product and then compare it against other sections of each product. Say, you like the buckle of a handbag, you can then go search for other similar handbags which have that kind of buckle. Also, when people start uploading pictures for comparison, image quality does matter. The system also has a full text based search engine too, you can drill down by brand name too if you so desire.