Aggregate Knowledge, the recommendation engine, is a tool for discovery, not search. When Web users search something, it means they know what they are looking for. Recommendations lead to serendipity. There are quite a few providers of that service online, so let’s look at a few.
Let’s start by a recommendation engine which technology is very close to search. Whonu looks like a search engine. The first action on the site is to type a keywork in the search box. As Whonu’s creator Derek Franklin explains:
I felt that if I could bring together the power of all these great search tools into a single interface, I just might have the research, discovery, idea-generating tool I’ve been looking for.
Whonu mashes up different search engines (Yahoo!, Live, Google…) into one search box, which makes the experience a discovery because resulting SERPs are unique.
Evri is another discovery site. Like Whonu, Evri users start by searching a term in a search box. However, the search term gets processed in a more constructive way on Evri, and the machine delivers a whole range of useful results to discover more about the search term.
In this search for Zinedine Zidane, the graph offers contextual links to the soccer player (France, Madrid, Beckham), a box to sharpen your search, article headlines, an about section, and pics & vids results that couldn’t fit in this screenshot. In Evri, discovery happens through rich contextual results.
Both examples above require a pro-active search behavior to launch the discovery process.
In a lot of situations, you just want to step in a store and let sales persons smooth-talk you into your next purchase. You don’t know what you’re looking for, and browsing around will help you figure it out. This is the kind of discovery Aggregate Knowledge provides. By applying complex contextual and behavioral algorithms, the engine is able to serve visitors with tailored suggestions of items they could be interested in. No initial search implied here.
Why should a Website integrate a recommendation engine into their sidebar? Visits that imply clicking on the discovery window usually generate 6 to 10 more page views than visits that do not imply the discovery box. Case closed!