Something new and different in search has appeared.
Zanran is an internet start-up company that hails from somewhere other than Mountain View or Sunnyvale, California. Nor is it in “Silicon Valley East”, the new incubator of technology ventures otherwise known as the Borough of Manhattan. Zanran is farther than farthest Fishkill, across a span greater than even the Tappan-Zee can bridge. Zanran is a U.K. domiciled company in Islington, London.
Not a Google Universal Search 2.0 competitor
Zanran seems to be more of a database searching tool. It would probably be best classified as a specialized search engine.
Zanran Search Beta screen shot
Zanran’s search method is described as patented but based on open-source programs. The actual patent, which I only glanced at, A Method and System of Indexing Historical Data, should help in clarifying. Zanran distinguishes itself because it is particularly well-suited to web search for information that has embedded numerical or graphical data:
Zanran helps you to find ‘semi-structured’ data on the web… numerical data e.g. a graph in a PDF report, or a table in an Excel spreadsheet, or a bar chart shown as an image in an HTML page. This huge amount of information can be difficult to find using conventional search engines, which are focused primarily on finding text… Put more simply: Zanran is Google for data.
Zanran is not a search engine with obvious uses in text or sentiment analysis. The beta website has a long page of examples demonstrating the speed (fast), breadth (across a very diverse assortment of scientific and analytic use cases) and quality of results.
Arthur Weiss, a competitive analyst and former long-time employee of Dun & Bradstreet UK, did a very thorough review of Zanran Search (April 2011):
I’ve been playing with a new data search engine called Zanran… The site is in an early beta. Nevertheless my initial tests brought up material that would only have been found using an advanced search on Google – if you were lucky. As such, Zanran promises to be a great addition for advanced data searching.
Zanran enters the marketplace
Zanran appears to have retained Mallard Digital Marketing. Mallard Digital’s hallmarks are “Authenticity, Transparency and Engagement”. Mallard features an attractive duck in the company logo, and in this rather engaging 15-second video. I base my conjecture about Mallard and Zanran upon three pieces of evidence:
- Mallard’s recent announcement, about the acquisition of a search engine as a new client on 29 March 2011
- The fact that Mallard likes Zanran and Zanran likes Mallard on the Facebook pages of each company
- The Zanran company dog enjoyed playing with Mallard’s Labrador retriever in March 2011 (also via Facebook)
Analogy and Digression: SHODAN
As a very general analogy, Zanran functionality reminds me of Google Code Search or SHODAN computer search. SHODAN is a search engine that can be used to:
find specific computers (routers, servers, etc.) … [it is] a search engine of banners. Google and Bing are great for finding websites. But what if you’re interested in finding computers running a certain piece of software (such as Apache)? Maybe a new vulnerability came out and you want to see how many hosts it could infect?
Here’s a screen shot of the main query page:
SHODAN screen shot
I am impressed to no end with SHODAN. It is quite clever, and remains very low profile, much like my blog.
I drafted this on 12 May 2011 but failed to actually post due to my insatiable need to excessively fuss and play with WordPress functionality. In the interim, others (most notably Search Engine Journal) have also found the subject of the following post, the Zanran data search engine. I mention this not as self-promotion, but rather, to emphasize that Zanran may be of greater significance than my casual tone indicates.