Meaning “expert” in Gaelic, Teoma was launched in 2000 by a team of scientists at Rutgers. You may have never heard of Teoma before because it was not a very popular search engine, even at it’s prime. Though it wasn’t popular, Teoma had a big impact on the web today by utilizing an algorithm similar to Google’s that ranked websites based on communities, but Teoma took it a step further by using subject-specific popularity. Subject-specific popularity is the number of related sites that link to a specific site, making that site an authority. This is now a major part of modern search engine algorithms. The site was acquired by Ask Jeeves in 2001 as a technology grab. Ask Jeeves needed the technology to analyze links better and Teoma had the solution. Ask pretty much let the brand languish and eventually the site was taken down in 2006.
Teoma was re-launched in April of this year as with no fanfare at all, similar to it’s demise in 2006. Teoma just doesn’t make much noise about it’s technology or existence. Are we going to see that change?
According to a couple responses from Ask about Teoma, they re-launched Teoma to “provide a simplified interface for everyday keyword web search.” I find this response interesting considering the recent addition to the Google search results – the everything bar. Is Teoma hoping to capitalize on a small percentage of Google users that are a bit peeved about the new Google features? Perhaps.
Though I enjoy the Teoma experience, much like the older Google, the results just don’t seem to be as good as Google’s. Teoma seems more susceptible to web spam. For example, a search for “home loan” in Ask, Google and Bing list LendingTree as the number one result – a pretty expected result considering the brand’s power. Yahoo offers LendingTree as the number two result, second to a government resource page, which is somewhat understandable. Where is LendingTree in Teoma’s results? Number seven. All six results that precede LendingTree in this search are spam lead-gen sites, one of which has several broken images on the first page. Would these results make you happy? I expect not.
If the results are so bad, why would Ask re-launch Teoma? I think they are planning on using the site as a test-bed for future search features and algorithm changes before they push those changes to Ask. This is the most likely course of action for resurrecting a site such as Teoma, especially with such a soft re-launch. Ask has barely made a peep about it. Maybe Ask has some really cool new feature they are looking to test, or a significant change to their algorithm and they don’t want a lot of attention on Ask.com about it.
Though I’m very underwhelmed by the results, I’m going to keep my eye on Teoma. Teoma had a major impact on today’s search environment many years ago, maybe they are teeing up another paradigm-shift. Maybe not.