TechCrunch previews Spock, a people-oriented search service. Like Google, they are indexing the entire web, but with some built-in data structure assumptions. If Google tried to catalog pages rather than just associate them, it would need a metadata standard. It would make no sense to have, e.g., a “first name” field attached to a page about Linux, Limburger cheese, or the limbic system. Since Spock knows it’s dealing with people, e.g., John Linell, it knows what blank fields to create and try to fill.
Spock auto-creates tags for individuals based on the information they find. Prominent tags for Bill Clinton, for example, include “former U.S. President, “Great Leader,” “Womanizer,” “Left Handed,” “Democrat,” and “Saxophonist,” among others. Spock also auto detects other relevant meta data about the individual – age, location and sex.
This specialization should allow Spock to give higher-quality results about people than a generalized search engine. Of course, it’s only as savvy about people as its designers know how to make it, so this approach would not scale to every specialized type of data. But since we care a lot about people — Spock claims 30% of web searches are for people — this is probably a useful, if limited, approach.
And for those of you who are relying on privacy through obscurity, there are already several indexing tools that will bring potential stalkers right to your door. If you have a little bit of personal info on several sites, that data could be automatically aggregated to build a full set of personal info — be careful!
Spock is pre-release and for now, you need an invitation to try it.