Surchur has been around for more than a year, but its recent facelift aims to take real-time search toward a new idea: real-time discovery.
It may sound like splitting hairs to some, but the point is valid: Real-time search isn’t of much value if you don’t know what to type into the search box. This is why Twitter’s new home page has links to a couple dozen trending topics. It’s why the new delicious.com home page has a tab showing the hottest bookmarks. It’s why Collecta shows what’s “hot now” on its home page, and why OneRiot does, too.
But Surchur is going a lot further with its new home page. Founder Todd Hogan calls it a merger of real-time search with real-time discovery.
The home page is now positioned as a “Real-Time Board” that shows trending topics from Google Trends, Yahoo Buzz, Bing xRank, CNN Popular Stories, Twitter, and Technorati. This is the discovery aspect: There’s no need to search for what’s hot when Surchur is doing it already, and ranking what it finds from a number of sites. The hot terms are divided into two categories: Hot Topics, which is based on an overall score, and Catching Fire, which lists the fastest-growing terms. As you’d expect, there’s occasionally some overlap in the two categories.
Hogan says the Real-Time Board is updated every 20-50 minutes. For each term, it ranks the popularity on a scale of 1-10, with separate marks for how hot the term is on Twitter, in the blogosphere, and on Surchur itself. A fourth column reveals where Surchur found the hot term.
Surchur sometimes lists hot topics from Twitter that differ from what you’ll see on Twitter’s own list of trending terms. Hogan says this is because Surchur’s algorithm goes deeper into Twitter’s datastream; a term that was hot on Twitter 24 hours ago may not show up on Twitter’s hot trends now, but may still be hot enough overall to appear on Surchur.
The site offers a number of interesting customization options, but the most helpful from a search perspective is the ability to dig deeply into any term. Clicking “marvel,” for example, brings up a page that shows where and why the term is hot, including blog mentions, social media mentions/links, photos, videos, and news. It’s a compelling aggregation of a variety of content related to the term.
Pages like this are somewhat reminiscent of a topical news page like you might see on Wikipedia or elsewhere — the living URLs that Danny wrote about yesterday — only the content comes from the social web and is more free-flowing (which has its pros and cons like any other social aggregator). It’s no wonder that Hogan says one of the site’s main user groups is journalists researching the conversation around current news. (Teens and young adults looking for celebrity news is another primary user group, Hogan says.)
Surchur launched formally in May, 2008, and has been growing consistently. Hogan says he expects to hit a million monthly visits for the first time in September.