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Italy: New Volunia Search Engine Intrigues Blogosphere

Volunia is a brand new search engine which encourages interaction between people searching for the same topics in different languages. Although news of its creation was made public just a few days ago, on Monday 6 February, 2012, Volunia has already caused a stir in the blogosphere, ranging from enthusiasm to disappointment in many languages. The new search engine tool was created by an Italian professor of Computer Science.

Jean-Marie [fr] of website presse-citron.net seemed amazed not only that the project [fr] had seen the light of day, but also that it had originated within a university:

Créer un moteur de recherche ! En 2012 ? Dans un marché planétaire phagocyté par des monopolistes géants qu’on peut compter sur les doigts de la main. L’imaginer, au plan conceptuel, en développer toute la technique, extrêmement sophistiquée, pour le plus dans un contexte académique, en impliquant des étudiants dans ce beau projet, ambitieux, trouver des fonds, puis tenter de le déployer au niveau mondial, d’emblée en 12 langues (allemand, anglais, espagnol, français, italien, portugais, polonais, arabe, russe, japonais, chinois, coréen), tel est le défi accompli par Massimo Marchiori, professeur  à l’Université de Padoue.

Why on earth would you create a search engine in 2012, in a global market divided up by just a few giant monopolies? To devise it conceptually, to develop the extremely sophisticated techniques, usually within an academic environment, as well as involving students in this ambitious project. To source funding, then to try to roll out worldwide in 12 languages (German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean), right from the start. These were the challenges overcome by Massimo Marchiori, professor of Computer Science at the University of Padua.

Smriti Jha, writer on the blog crazyengineers.com explains the origins of the name:

Deriving from the Italian words volo (flying) and luna (moon), Volunia is the fruitful result of three years of hard work put in by Marchiori.

On the blog abondance.com Olivier Andrieu [fr] gave his opinion [fr] following a performance review of this new search engine:

 –       Que nos premiers pas semblent prometteurs : le site est rapide (encore heureux en version bêta, ceci dit…), les résultats de recherche sont plutôt pertinents à première vue, bref, l'outil semble bien né…

- Volunia transformera-t-il l'essai ? Sans parler de véritable révolution, ce nouveau moteur de recherche est agréable sans réellement changer nos habitudes. Il a en tout cas l'avantage de proposer une alternative à Google. Quant à dire s'il va le concurrencer dans les mois qui viennent, c'est une autre question. C'est en tout cas ce que l'avenir dira lorsqu'il s'ouvrira de façon plus large à ses utilisateurs. Ce sont eux qui jugeront. Mais nos premiers tests semblent plutôt positifs…

- First impressions seem promising – the site is rapid (that said, it is still in beta mode), search results seem pretty accurate so far. This search engine seems to have been well thought out….

- Will Volunia transform the Internet search? Although not exactly a revolution, this new search engine is pleasant to use, while not dramatically changing how we do do things. At least it has the advantage of offering an alternative to Google. Whether it will be able to compete with it in the months to come is another question. The future will reveal all, as, when Volunia is more widely available, users will judge its potential. I would say our first trials have been fairly positive…

This article unleashed a wave of commentary, including the following [fr] from a user named Kershin [fr]:

Personnellement, je suis aussi un power user et, bien que l'idée soit sympa, je trouve l'interface ultra lourde. Il y a trop de barres partout, trop de fonctions. Quand on vient de Google et son style épuré, on est vite surchargé par l'interface. A mon avis, ils gagneraient à laisser l'utilisateur activer ou désactiver certaines fonctionnalités..

I too am a power user, and, although the idea is great, I found the interface ultra slow. There are too many toolbars and too many functions. When you come from Google and its pared down style, you quickly become overwhelmed by the interface. In my opinion they should let the user activate or deactivate certain functionalities..

A French tech website [fr] gave the following opinion:

L'index de Volunia ne souffre pas (encore) la comparaison avec de plus gros moteurs, et les SERPS n'affichent pour l'instant que des sites ayant une certaine autorité. Les discussions entre power users sur le chat font état d'un certain manque de pertinence sur les recherches de personnes (ahhhhh… les premières requêtes d'ego surfing pour s'admirer dans le miroir virtuel ;-)

The search index of Volunia cannot yet meet that of the biggest search engines, and the SERPS currently only latch onto sites which have some authority. Chat-based discussions between power users reveal a certain lack of accuracy while searching for individuals. (Ah, those first searches for your own name, admiring yourself in the virtual mirror ;)

A user named Andy said [fr]:

Je disais qu'on déloge un grand concurrent, non pas en l'attaquant de face, mais en introduisant des petites améliorations “pas menaçantes”. Sur ce plan Volunia a aussi des points positifs : l'idée de créer une sorte de “réseau social” entre personnes qui se sont intéressées au même sujet, et de les inviter à communiquer entre elles (et sans doute à donner aussi des informations à Volunia, de manière nettement plus intelligente que Knowl), est une bonne idée. Elle a ces caractéristiques : amélioration, sans attaque de front. En ce qui concerne les résultats des requêtes, pour l'instant c'est ridicule. Il vaut mieux que Volunia signe tant que c'est possible un accord avec “un des grands moteurs”. (Si je veux inventer un nouveau moyen de transport avec des roues, je ne vais pas mettre une équipe d'ingénieurs sur la réinvention de la roue…)

You get rid of a major competitor, not by a full frontal assault, but by introducing small, ‘non-threatening’ improvements. Volunia has some positive points in this regard: the idea of creating a kind of ‘social network’ between people interested in the same subject, and inviting them to communicate with each other (and doubtless to also pass information to Volunia, in a vastly more intelligent way than Knowl), is good, and an example of an improvement with no head-on confrontation. However, the search results are ridiculous. It would be better if Volunia showed as much agreement as possible with the major search engines. (If I wanted to invent a new method of wheeled transport, I wouldn't set a team of engineers to work redesigning the wheel.)

Bobbie Johnson wrote the following in an article entitled “Is Volunia Italy’s answer to Google — or just hot air?” published on the blog gigaom.com:

 To me, everything from Volunia so far seems to suggest it’s trying to solve a problem that nobody needs to solve right now. I can’t wait to see it open up and find out whether I’m right or wrong.

This opinion was also shared by Jian who posted this comment after the article:

 I am a power user too and tried it.

You said well, it does look like it is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist yet.

But anyway, I hope it could make an impact, since we don’t want to have just a Google to take over the whole market…

Another reader of this article, Nebil Kriedi, not sharing this opinion, responded:

A problem which doesn’t exists? [sic]

Do you really think that searching for something on the web ends up on showing a dozen of links like most search engine does?
I personally think that your search ends when you find the CONTENT you’re looking for, not just a stupid and chaotic html.

For what I saw, volunia seems to be be designed for that kind of search, a search which brings you straight on the content by following your navigation inside the website.

The idea behind its design (awful) it’s brilliant to me and I hope the execution would be fine too.

A user named Liz left the following comment:

 I like the idea of a way to interact with other visitors on a page. Question is how would it be monitored for security and safety reasons?

I’m always curious who will rival G[oogle]. The bigger you are the harder you fall… eventually…

After analysing the various aspects of this new search engine, online services specialist Paola Bonomo highlighted the new features which set it apart from other search engines. She did not seem terribly impressed in her review [it] on her blog pandemia.info:

 Ha veramente senso commentare una pagina con gli altri utenti che la visitano? Se cerco informazioni, sono più interessato ai contenuti della pagina o ai commenti lasciati da altri pochi utenti? Forse più i primi che i secondi. Non necessariamente deve essere social ogni momento passato in rete, soprattutto se siamo già abituati a commentare con un tweet su Twitter o con una segnalazione su Facebook o usando uno dei plugin social di Facebook. Perché cambiare? Qui l’integrazione con Facebook e Twitter dovrà essere spinta per far cambiare comportamento agli utenti.

Is there really any point commenting on a page with other users who are visiting it? If I was searching for information, would I be more interested in the contents or the page, or the comments left by other users? Perhaps I would be more interested in the former than the latter. Not all time spent on social networks is necessarily spent being sociable, especially if we are already used to commenting via tweets or Facebook, or via Facebook social plug-ins. Why change? Facebook and Twitter integration must be actively pushed in order to change the behaviour of users.

A Spanish-based tech website, danilodellaquila.com, recorded its verdict:

Volunia adds new concepts and ideas about the web, also it adds the “Social” concept to the search engine. Also Google is doing it, with its +1 and G+ but I prefer the Volunia way, it feels closest to real life.

A Russian social media blog smm-promo.ru warned [ru]:

 Итак начинается тестирование новой поисковой системы Volunia, представленной на 12 языках. Mail.ru и Яндекс берегитесь.

And so begins the trial of the new 12 language search engine Volunia. Mail.ru and Yandex had better watch out.

2 comments

  • […] Italy: New Volunia Search Engine Intrigues Blogosphere […]

  • This is the perfect webpage for everyone who really wants to find out about this topic.
    You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that
    I actually would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin on a subject that’s been discussed for many years. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!

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