I recently watched a wonderful TED presentation given this past February by the inventor of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee. Tim’s presentation focused on the premise that linked data (as he calls it) will revolutionize the way we use, parse, and compile information (mostly numbers) found on the world wide web. His presentation is great and he’s looking for help propagating linked data, so if you have a few (16) minutes, I suggest you watch his TED talk.

Tim’s presentation got me thinking about the future of search. I started to wonder how far off we are from the elusive ‘semantic web’ and realized that although we’re not there yet, there are companies using branded content creation and distribution platforms as a stepping stone to the semantic web and, in the process, GREATLY enhancing search functionality on the web. One of those companies, and a real pioneer when it comes to context sensitive search, is Kosmix.com.

What Is Kosmix?

Kosmix provides you with a dashboard of search results using ‘trusted’ branded content creation and distribution platforms to help users see, read, and engage with the search results in a much more organzied and context-sensitive way. Their ‘dashboard’ is different for almost every search I’ve ever done on Kosmix, providing me with the most relevant data and information for the terms I’m searching for.

Here’s how Kosmix refers to their search functionality:

“Kosmix is a guide to the Web. The site (www.kosmix.com) lets users explore the Web by topic, presenting a dashboard of relevant videos, photos, news, commentary, opinion, communities and links to related topics.

Kosmix’s categorization engine organizes the Internet into magazine-style topic pages, enabling people to navigate the Web even if they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for.”

Quite frankly, Kosmix’s search results are far more engaging and relevant than Google, Yahoo, Cuil, Ask, About – any search I’ve used to date. (As a side note, many of the links in this page go directly to Kosmix search results pages.)

A Quick Look at a Search Result from Kosmix
Google's Search Results

Google's Search Results for Earth Day

I decided to compare a Google search experience to a Kosmix search experience for one of Google’s top trending topics for today (April 22, 2009). Today happens to be Earth Day, and in keeping with the theme, I conducted a search for ‘Earth Day’ on both platforms.

We’ve all experienced a Google search result set, so it’s not worth me going through the details, but here’s a quick look at the results.

Now, here’s the Kosmix experience:

Kosmix.com Search Results for Earth Day

Kosmix.com Search Results for Earth Day

The value of the Kosmix platform is immediately apparent. The first section, ‘At a Glance,’ provides me with the Wikipedia entry for Earth Day and some image results from Google Images. Immediately I can get a overview of what Earth Day is and why it was started. Wikipedia is a trusted source for information these days, and although it shows up in the Google Search results, I’m forced to click through to Wikipedia to get the real summary of what Earth Day is.

Kosmix brings so much more to your search experience, and it’s worth looking at a couple of other elements in the Kosmix results page as well:

Image Results on Kosmix

Image Results on Kosmix

Images: As you scroll down the page there are some wonderful image results, showcasing Flickr and Google image search results for Earth Day. As you hover over an image, a pop-up thumbnail appears to give you a better look.

Video Search Results on Kosmix

Video Search Results on Kosmix

Videos: Kosmix uses a wide variety of sources for delivering video search results. Many of the results will play inline (meaning in the page itself), enabling users to watch the videos without leaving. In addition, you’ll find ‘how to’ videos for specific topics.

Blog Search Results on Kosmix

Blog Search Results on Kosmix

Blogs: Of course, there are wonderful, timely, and relevant blog entries on the page, allowing you to read the first sentence (or so) before you decide whether to dive in deeper.

There are far too many wonderful features in the Kosmix universe to detail here: documents from Scribd, related Facebook groups, Twitter Search results, reputable newspaper articles, answers from Yahoo Answers, forum posts… the list goes on and on.

So, What Does Kosmix Mean to You as a Content Creator?

If you’re creating and distributing content for you or your company, you must start distributing your content as widely as possible. You must distribute it on trusted platforms: videos on Vimeo, images on Flickr, entries on Wikipedia. You must participate in trusted branded content creation platforms like Amazon.com reviews and in social media platforms like Twitter or Tumblr.

The future of search does not lie in Google’s disorganized monopoly of paid search results and indecipherable, keyword-optimized, co-opted and click-through ranked searches. It lies in context-sensitive, comprehensive, multi-threaded search results from ‘trusted’ content creation and distribution platforms like Kosmix.

I Challenge You

I challenge you to search for yourself or your company on Kosmix. What do you find? Is it relevant? Is it content you created and propogated? If not, start really thinking about your content creation and distribution strategy. Maybe it’s time you really started to extend your reach by providing your consumers with a broad context for their interactions with your brand.

Kosmix has just recently started to move up the search food chain. With almost 3 MM unique visitors a month, they’re merely a blip on the search radar screen, but they’re rapidly gaining ground. If you aren’t using Kosmix daily, that’s okay. At least use it as a barometer for how far and wide your content is distributed and can be consumed.

My Questions to You

What do you think of Kosmix? Where do you think the future of search is headed? What’s your favorite feature of the Kosmix interface?