A new web navigation service based solely on search term popularity, Springo may give Google a run for its money – or at least augment its service.
He’s a self-made entrepreneur with a high-tech company on the Tel Aviv stock market but he’s definitely no tech geek. When Aviv Refua came up with the idea for the high-tech company Netex, founded in Israel 12 years ago, the Tel Aviv resident was more interested in painting and art. But back then, as one of his country’s first Internet users, Refua was feeling pretty frustrated.
The Internet was a mess at the time. URLs for Israeli companies were written out in English and there were almost infinite ways to phonetically spell a company’s Hebrew name or web address. No one could find what they needed, so Netex’s core technology was developed to help companies direct and re-direct search engine users to the right address. Today, its subsidiary Springo is a navigation service that’s further untangling the Web.
“I hired programmers to find a solution. My background was in arts – at a school of arts, taking photos and painting. I came up with the idea and started talking with investors and people in the market,” Refua tells ISRAEL21c. “We started to develop technology and launched services in the Israeli market. It was a great success.”
Today, about 60 percent of all the companies in Israel rely on Netex’s services. Based in Hod Hasharon in central Israel, Refua founded the company with the programmers who helped him to craft the solution. With 50 employees, Netex does business in Russia and the US, and is now looking to break deeper into the US market with Springo, a Netex subsidiary that helps users to navigate through the complex ‘web’ of the Internet.
Dividing his time between Tel Aviv and New York, Refua has shepherded four-year-old Springo into Beta mode. Speaking to ISRAEL21c from New York, he says: “The feedback is great, and the industry likes the service, which is new, and they say that the concept is good. There are great vibes from the market right now.”
Up against Google?
Unlike Google, Springo aims to be a web navigation service. Google offers users a Web search with results based mostly on search engine optimization, internal links, and the amount of money a company has paid to get on its top page. In its light version as a free toolbar download, Springo can be positioned to sit on the left of the Google search page. When queries are made, it gives searchers visual results based solely on search term popularity.
It’s an evolution from what Netex has been doing all along, that’s based more on the look and feel of icons, Refua explains. And its approach, like that of Apple’s and the iPhone, is that ‘less is more.’ Refua is hoping to break out the service on US mobile phones and next generation devices like the iPad.
When you’re surfing on Google with web navigation, says Refua, “there is so much information. It’s so crowded. You can’t see all the news, articles, blogs and a lot of things other than the websites you are looking for. Our mission is to improve the way people navigate the web. And the way we are doing it is through a database we’ve built over the last four years which contains all the leading websites of the US market, organized by different topics, and ranked by real time user traffic.
“We want to organize the web based on users’ habits and statistics and not based on links to the websites that affect results of Google, Yahoo or Bing. We provide a picture of the best websites on the web,” he asserts.
And unlike popularity search engines and services like Alexa or Technorati, Springo, available for use today, is more for the masses, and less for the marketing industry that those other sites cater to. “It’s a tool for any user, available any day for day-to-day navigation,” he tells ISRAEL21c.
Enhancing the search experience
While it may seem like a long shot to get Internet addicts and surfers to think in any terms other than ‘Google me,’ Refua thinks there is room for Springo, especially as a tool bar add-on which generates results in tandem with those which Google provides. Searching for the best theme parks in America, Springo provided popular theme park sites, with color and pictures, while Google gave a rather bland listing, with directory sites containing theme parks. This illustrates how Springo could enhance the search experience, or “web navigation” as Refua insists.
It can also be used to search within the pages of certain sites, like CNN. Type in the name CNN in Springo and you get the top entry pages of the CNN website.
While the company plans on making its money using an advertising model, Refua promises that ad sales will never influence the quality of rankings delivered to the end user.
Google’s lack of transparency certainly has a lot of searchers wondering: Am I getting to this site because it’s truly popular and good for me to see, or has Google served it to me because companies have paid them or other search engine marketers to get it there through link buys and word placements. Springo can cut through the monkey business and deliver results based on what users like you are looking for, Refua asserts.
“All the rankings are based on the Springo community and the users affect the way the results are ranked,” he says. “It’s not based on how much money Google pays you. The difference is in our service and the way it is built. It can serve many kinds of users, including children.”
Giving less, but in a more user-friendly way, Springo pledges to provide no more than 100 websites, based on your search entry. On Springo, even for long tail searches, such as for ‘Aviv Refua,’ readers will get the leading websites mentioning his name, and not necessarily the less-relevant information that may be out there in the Internet universe, telling you about Aviv Refua as a 17-year-old artist and entrepreneur. That said, Refua tells ISRAEL21c that he still finds some time for more creative endeavors in the art world, but less than when he was a teenager starting up his first company.