Israeli web service turns your desktop computer or smart phone into a mind-reader, bringing you news and information about what most interests you.
By David Halevi
How do you know you are getting the best and most relevant content when you do a web search? Herzliya-based Genieo (www.genieo.com) makes an application that turns your browser’s home page into a constantly updating “newspaper” filled with only the stories you want to read.
“Many web services have tried over the years to develop personalization for the web, because that’s what users are most interested in,” says Genieo CEO Sol Tzvi. “The challenge is how to take a stream and personalize it, whether it is news, video, social posts, etc. I think we have done this more successfully than any of the web portals that have been working on this.”
When you download and install the free Genieo application, your computer browser’s home page turns into a virtual newspaper, with headlines and stories drawn from all over the Internet. You can modify the program to work with your Twitter and Facebook accounts, sharing stories or pulling information from those, or any other source, into your home page.
You can even let Genieo figure out what you want to look at, using its advanced micro-behavioral targeting technology to come up with a precise rendering of the information that interests you.
Tzvi says Genieo’s technology is much more accurate than what is offered by Google, Yahoo or any other web portal or service. “If you like basketball, for example, the system will come up with stories about basketball. But it will also focus in on the teams you follow, and even your favorite players.”
It’s as if your computer can suddenly read your mind. “Our micro-behavioral technology is able to analyze users’ online behavior to determine what it is that users want on the web,” says Tzvi. “It’s almost like having a personal assistant who anticipates your needs.”
System learns on the job
The system actually improves as you use it, Tzvi assets.
“Upon installation, Genieo is 80 percent accurate, meaning that you will find nearly all the content relevant. But after a few days, it gets even better,” says Tzvi.
And Genieo is extremely respectful of users’ privacy, keeping all the information that it gathers on your computer. “We do not use your browser’s cookies to determine what you’re interested in,” she says. “We install our own behavioral plug-in, which learns what it needs to know, and all that information stays right on your computer. We don’t upload it anywhere.”
In fact, says Tzvi, it was the relative anonymity of her interactions with her own PC that prompted her to develop Genieo. “I was amazed that the cloud – the Internet – knew all about me, even when I was halfway around the world, but to my PC at home I was anonymous. It had no idea of my interests, unlike the Internet services I used. I decided to fix that, and the result was Genieo.”
Genieo is primarily a desktop application (there are versions for Windows and Mac systems), but you can also upload pages to your iPhone or Android phone.
“We expect to have a full Android version later this year, but because it will be a native cell phone application, it will not have the same level of privacy the desktop application does,” she says.
Although there is a perception that more people are surfing the web from mobile devices than from desktop computers these days, Tzvi believes desktops will remain the primary conduit for web information for many years to come. “You check your cell phone when you’re on the run, or in transit, but when you’re at your desk you use your PC. That’s not going to change anytime soon.”
Making the user experience more personal
Genieo currently has tens of thousands of users, but expects to have millions by the end of the year – thanks to several contracts it is about to sign with well-known Internet portals.
“We have 13 employees right now, down from the 15 we had just a couple of months ago – one we lost to Google, and another to a program at Stanford University,” says Tzvi, adding that she plans to hire two replacements in the coming months.
Genieo was established by Tzvi and her partner, Jacob Tenenboem, in 2008, and has raised $4 million in two rounds of funding from several private and corporate investors, including Matrix, Comsec Consulting and ProSeed Venture Capital Fund.
The company recently won the prestigious About.com 2011 Readers’ Choice Award, and is working on new applications of its technology, like plugins for iTunes and other programs.
“Everyone from Facebook to Apple to Pandora is looking to make the user experience more personal,” says Tzvi “At Genieo, we think consumers’ homepages should go a step further and really act as the landing page for everything they would want to consume on the web.”