Fast Search & Transfer (FAST; http://www.fastsearch.com), the Norwegian search engine company, may be best known among searchers for the success of its freely available AllTheWeb.com search site. Recently it has been wisely putting its energies into increasing its base of (paying) enterprise customers for its search solutions. FAST has just announced that it has been selected to provide the application platform for Reuters News Distribution Service (NDS) as part of a multiyear software licensing agreement. Reuters, the global information, news, and technology group, will deploy NDS as part of its Market Data Systems and Internet Finance platform.
Reuters' clients will get access to a browser-based application to set up News Delivery Profiles, and then have real-time news headlines streamed to a frame within the browser. A search bar is also available to look up recent news stories. NDS uses a Java API to access the FAST Data Search product, which provides both real-time indexing (within a second) and real-time alerting of streaming XML data sources.
"For Reuters clients, timely delivery of news information is key," said Jean-Christophe Laurent, product manager of NDS at Reuters. "FAST technology allows us to provide our clients with a scalable service that can handle drastic increases in the volume of unfiltered real-time news."
"The integration of FAST Data Search, part of the FAST Enterprise product suite, into NDS means that Reuters will enjoy a substantial advantage over its news and information aggregation competitors," said John M. Lervik, CEO of FAST. "Reuters puts out thousands of news stories a day. FAST Data Search, with its real-time content filtering and matching, will make each of these stories instantly searchable and will enable Reuters to single out each individual that wants to see a specific news story and deliver it to any number of those users in under a second."
Reuters' current technology offers searching of headline text and predefined categories, such as Industry, Region, etc. FAST searches the full text of news stories and allows for much more elaborate filters, which increases relevancy and precision. Lervik also noted that the FAST technology provides Reuters with the performance and scale necessary to handle the flow of five to 10 documents per second, distributed to more than 500,000 users worldwide.
"FAST technology evaluates the whole story and not just the headline, which helps to reduce information overload for our customers," said Mike Sayers, chief technology officer (CTO) of Reuters. "It increases the relevancy and precision of search results, so that our clients can find the information they want and only what they want, far faster."
The deal with Reuters, the world's largest news network, can be considered a coup for FAST. Lervik stressed that the company "chooses to work with the big guys." In August, FAST announced a deal with eBay for the auction marketplace to use FAST Data Search across its network of sites, serving 34 million users worldwide. Last week, FAST announced that it was chosen to power T-Online, Germany's largest ISP and portal. Other leading customers include Dell, Ericsson, IBM, KPNQwest, Qwest, Reed Elsevier (Scirus), Terra Lycos, and TIBCO Software.
Recent changes in FAST's corporate strategy account for the emphasis on enterprise accounts. On October 1, Thomas Fussell, chairman of FAST, announced some major company changes: "While current market conditions remain challenging, we are sharpening our focus on core product developments and enhancements, with the singular goal of transforming our search capability into a competitive advantage for a growing list of Internet and enterprise customers. The changes we are announcing today include consolidation of management into two strategic locations, the discontinuation of non-revenue generating technologies, and renewed focus on ‘must have' search products. Each supports our overall goal of continued quarter-to-quarter revenue growth."
Fussell also announced the appointment of Lervik as CEO, in addition to his position as CTO. The previous CEO, Rob Fisher, and Bob Beveridge, chief financial officer, left the company "by mutual consent," according to an announcement on September 14, which also reported Q2 2001 financial results. Other actions taken include a workforce reduction from 230 to 170 employees, and office closures in the U.S., Norway, and the U.K. The company reported Q2 revenue of $8.7 million, representing an 18-percent growth over Q1 revenue, with 50 percent of first half-year revenues coming from the enterprise sector. However, to cope with an operating loss, the company took the necessary steps to reduce its cost structure.
With the current economic conditions putting extreme pressure on markets and corporate growth, we will continue to see companies making the choice to focus their portfolio of products to provide enhanced market penetration in narrower core market segments. (Last week we reported similar strategies announced by Hoover's.) Despite the necessary organizational slimming down, Lervik spoke optimistically about FAST's sales growth and prospects for the future. "The high-end customers like IBM still need us to drive new markets for them and software vendors want scalable solutions." He said the company would be increasingly working with additional distributors and partners, and it expected to announce partnerships with system integrators as well.