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SurfWax Aims to Surf into the Enterprise Market
Posted On April 21, 2003
SurfWax, a small California-based company that has provided Web-based research solutions for individuals, schools, and law firms, announced the release of SurfWax Enterprise. The launch of the new metasearch product marks the company's move into the corporate and enterprise market. SurfWax hopes it will meet the need in enterprise organizations to implement an intelligent approach to "Open Web" searching for knowledge workers.

SurfWax posits that individuals and organizations waste a great deal of time and money searching for answers and information on the Open Web. The company's technology is designed to provide an intelligent and efficient method of searching specially targeted sites with a single search, and then a way to save and share the information using knowledge management tools.

Tom Holt, president and CEO of SurfWax said: "In meeting with corporate professionals regarding knowledge management (KM) tools, the need to improve the efficiency of searching the Open Web is a consistent theme. A recent study by the information technology consulting firm, IDC, underscores the cost of unproductive use of the Web. We are convinced that the SurfWax core technologies can be particularly effective in the enterprise/corporate environment."

The IDC study stated that typical knowledge workers spend 15 to 30 percent of their time searching for information, but report a success rate of only 50 percent in terms of finding what they need. The study estimates it could be costing organizations between $9,000 and $18,000 a year per average worker. Additional expenses include the cost of re-work, as well as missed opportunities.

Information industry veteran, George Plosker, a consultant and former Gale executive, said he applauded SurfWax's decision to expand into the enterprise market because there's "so much pain" in Web searching. He indicated that the whole application could look like a corporate product, with the branding of the corporate library, for example.

Often a librarian or someone in an organization has already identified useful Web sites that may be presented as sets of links on an intranet. These links may or may not be categorized and still require the user to select and then individually search each site of interest. SurfWax SearchSets eliminate this problem by accessing multiple search sources through a single point of access—one query submitted simultaneously against multiple targeted sources. SurfWax can typically be up and running in an organization within a week. SurfWax works with client organizations to develop categorized SearchSets of previously identified and other Web pages directly applicable to research topics and areas of interest.

Plosker said, "SurfWax brings a lot of sophistication to Open Web searching—all of those classic search values, like database selection, precision, the ability to review results in a meaningful way, and then store, share, or publish those results." Plosker, who is consulting for SurfWax, indicated that SurfWax Enterprise is offered as an ASP application and can be integrated into any existing architecture, such as a content management or knowledge management setting.

Besides providing targeted, high-quality SearchSets that bring high relevancy to searches, SurfWax has some other nifty features that have made it popular among search professionals for several years. Users can choose to "weight" individual sources within SearchSets to give priority retrieval, and sources can be easily added or removed.

SurfWax permits previewing of search results without loading the page or application (such as Word or Acrobat). Clicking on a magnifying glass next to an item in a search results list will bring up a SiteSnap in a window on the right. SiteSnaps use proprietary algorithms to summarize and extract content in real-time from a document. SiteSnap summaries are interactive, allowing the user to drill down directly into a document's content (based on context) by reviewing multiple levels of display, i.e., short title, abstract with key words in context (KWIC), and full text with keyword highlighting.

SurfWax can crawl/index any site (intranet, Internet) and can use a site's existing search capability as part of the metasearch process. Thus, it can retrieve from nonsubscription portions of what is commonly called the invisible Web. In addition, if a user has a valid password to a for-fee site, in most cases, that source can be included in a SearchSet with the results from the for-fee source seamlessly integrated with the results from the other sources in the set.

The managing director of an international consulting firm and an early user of SurfWax Enterprise said: "No other offering provides the combination of multiple targeted sources integrated with confidential collaboration tools. SurfWax provides significant efficiencies of operation and avoids the usual complexity of setting-up partnership and project management tools. Implementation of SurfWax across project teams is simple because of ease of use and intuitive interface."

The company's homepage ( has been revised and now provides overviews of all SurfWax tools, a downloadable PowerPoint that can be used to review the benefits and core concepts behind SurfWax Enterprise, and a detailed White Paper.

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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