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Primal – a new kind of search engine? We sock it to them…

Alex Christie

30 July 2010

On being asked to contribute to the blog I chose a topic to cover. I had a selection of topics to choose from and I thought I’d go for the ‘thing’ I’d not heard of, with a view that it might be something interesting.

So, I’ve opted to write about a site called www.primal.com. For the uninitiated, Primal bills itself as a new kind of search engine – one which apparently has the ability to use your ‘thoughts’ to help the results. So I decided to put it to the test…

The page loads quickly and the first thing that catches my eye is a dialogue box asking me what I am thinking about. On further inspection I see the strap line “Put your thoughts to work” and that this page seems to be ‘My thought network’. The site’s logo (an ant) makes me wonder if this is some sort of online hive mind. I guess it is a little bit; I type the first thing which pops into my head (well actually it was the second, you don’t want to know about the first), which was ‘socks’ (mainly because I was thinking of my friend who has his own business in personalised socks).

Personalised socks

I’m then prompted to add more thoughts and subsequently told that I can either ‘Brainstorm’ or ‘Find content’. Clicking on each of these either pulls in content from other sources (mainly on the yahoo network (search/flickr) and Wikipedia) or generates large lists of related and further related words. This is quite¬† interesting, especially from a linguistic point of view but I’m struggling to see how I would use this.

I begin to understand that this site is using my ‘thoughts’ to tailor my future searches. It’s like a bit like an aggregated highly personalised search engine using semantics and possibly the semantic aspect of the web to return relevant results. There’s a programming API (which I always like to see) suggesting it might be quite fun to play with.

I start to play a little more by seeing if I can effectively get my friend’s site to rank, I try terms such as ‘personalised socks’, ‘london’, ‘quick delivery’ and ‘high quality’. Checking the ‘Find content’ section each time to see how it evolves. I’m a little spooked to find that on adding the first additional term it’s now returning myfavouritesocks.com as ranked #1 on Yahoo search, I quickly check in a browser and actually he is ranking second for this term. How has this happened, it appears this site really is in my mind!

In conclusion, primal.com is quite interesting and fun to play with for a while, perhaps I need to give it more time but at the moment I’m left with the feeling that I’m not entirely sure how much I will use it.

It does bring up the interesting question of where is search going, will we be able to continue indexing the web to return relevant results or are we going to have to use a whole different approach to get the results we want? There is a knowledge vs. search debate at the moment and no doubt Google is already working on a middle ground between the two.

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