While Google, FAST, AltaVista, and other general search engine sites duke it out to win user loyalty, there have been some interesting developments in site search engines, especially those offered as hosted applications to corporate customers. Earlier this year, Denmark-based Mondosoft, with U.S. headquarters in New York, acquired SearchButton (based in Mountain View, California), a leading U.S. competitor in the site search market. With the acquisition of the similar technology, Mondosoft strengthened its presence considerably, gaining a large base of U.S. customers and a better foundation for providing service to corporate customers. Mondosoft recently announced a new version of its search engine, MondoSearch 4.2, which includes 11 new features.
The new features in MondoSearch 4.2, combined with existing features such as categorization of results, are aimed at helping users of corporate portals and visitors to large public Web sites to quickly find what they're looking for through easy, effective searches.
Susan Feldman, an analyst at IDC who follows the market for search software, said: "The weakest link in searching for information has always been to get the user to ask for what he is looking for. By adding tools like categorization, synonym searching, searching by category, or sound-alike searching, Mondosoft gives the user powerful tools for asking better questions. In an information-overloaded world, these are tools that enterprises need in order to improve the productivity of their employees. It is the future of good search engine design."
Some of the new features are ones that professional searchers expect to find from their use of the sophisticated search software offered on various online services. But these are not features generally familiar to the average searcher using a Web search engine. MondoSearch 4.2 now offers word stemming, phrase searching, the use of wild cards, and even a phonetics function that enables searching for words that sound alike. The search words are also highlighted in the documents that are found. In addition, Web site owners can control results ranking. An example of this might be to give ranking preference to items from a news category before listing results from an archive.
If a search fails to produce results, a synonym feature suggests search terms that have similar meanings to the user's original query. Even better, if a search produces zero results, an intelligence feature called BehaviorMatch suggests alternative search words based on how previous users rephrased unsuccessful searches that used the same words.
The new version also provides an XML Search Results page, which delivers search results in a format that makes it easy for any XML-compatible application to extract data, thereby giving Web developers the ability to develop their own interfaces to MondoSearch.
The Behavior Tracking Module, an optional feature that was introduced with MondoSearch 4.1, enables Web site owners to determine exactly how users arrive at a specific Web page, what search terms they employ, and the degree of success the users achieve in their searches. The introduction of the Behavior Tracking Module allowed corporate customers to provide Mondosoft with valuable feedback about visitors to their Web sites and portals. According to the company's announcement, this information, along with extensive usability testing, was a driving force in the development of MondoSearch 4.2.
Jennifer Naylor, Webmaster for New York-based Cablevision Systems Corp., said that the Behavior Tracking Module has helped her company understand what users are looking for on Cablevision's site by providing comprehensible statistics on search criteria. "It supports my argument when I can approach a business unit and say, 'We need more information on this subject. Here's how many people were searching for information about it and didn't find what they were looking for,'" she said.
MondoSearch will automatically full-text index all Adobe PDF and Microsoft Office documents, and will even index sites authored in Lotus Notes, making this an attractive choice for enterprise sites. In addition, PDF files can be translated into HTML documents so that the user can preview the PDF document before downloading it. This also enables MondoSearch to link directly to the matching page in a long PDF document. MondoSearch also provides recognition and support for 12 languages, so a user can specify the language for presenting the results. All MondoSearch features can be customized and turned on or off by the Webmaster.
To view examples of MondoSearch in action, especially the implementations of searching by categories, see the list of customer references on the Mondosoft site (http://www.mondosoft.com). Good examples are Real Networks (http://www.realnetworks.com) or the Random House site (http://www.randomhouse.com).
Pricing for MondoSearch 4.2 is based on the size of the site and whether it's a hosted solution or one that's installed locally. For the hosted solution, one to 1,000 pages is about $450 per month; sites of 100,000 pages run about $5,000 per month. Larger sites are negotiable. For a CD, the price begins at about $6,200.
Mondosoft is not alone in offering a reasonably priced outsourced option for site search. Google (http://www.google.com/services/index.html) and Atomz (http://www.atomz.com) are also competitors in this market, but former competitor SearchButton is now part of Mondosoft.