Burning a Hole is a new search engine with a twist from Tom Smith, “it’s for people who don’t know exactly what they want when they are looking for a present or possibly something for themselves.” Traditional search engines and price comparison sites like Kelkoo and Price Runner are great but only if you know what you want to buy and want to find. You simply enter some text in a search box or decide on a category, like Books or Gardening or Flowers but many people don’t have a clue what they want but they know it when they see it.
The twist with Burning a Hole is that it is a price-centric shopping site with thousands and thousands of products from partner stores like Amazon, John Lewis, Virgin Wines to name a few but listed by their price and not by their product category.
“We’re more than a search engine. We’re an ideas-by-price engine. We’re a make-the-internet-work-for-your-wallet engine. We’re a what-do-you-do-with-that-fifty-quid-you’ve been-saving-in-your-sock-drawer engine. We’re your Christmas inspiration engine (and have you seen the range of office gifts we’ve got for under a tenner?) We think this is what the internet was always supposed to be about.
I tried Burning a Hole this morning and was impressed by the breadth of products. Once I had chosen my price category, I was presented with an array of products which I could further filter by clicking on the grey microfilters next to each product description. If I then liked a product I could either add it to my wishlist or email it to a friend. Equally in order to buy any product, I simply clicked on the link and I was taken directly to the product listed within the sellers website.
For a product that has only just been launched the site is very good and certainly makes you think about search in a different way. The one minor change I would like to see is having each product marked up as a microformat (hlisting) just like dealtagger does today. Looking at Tom’s code he is already 85% of the way to having each product marked up as a hlisting microformat. e.g a minor change to the div class=”product” to div class=”hlisting” shouldn’t be too much of a change.
The question you might be asking is why bother? Well as the web continues to grow search engines like Google are becoming too broad with the relevancy value based solely on keywords dropping. i.e Finding what you want first time is fast becoming a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. Newer semantic search engines are beginning to appear http://kitchen.technorati.com is one example which looks for a variety of microformats.
Another example closer to home is oodle which is a classifieds search engine for cars, houses, jobs that aggregates content using the hlistings microformats. Other well known sites supporting hlistings include CraigsList and Edgeio. Being able to search semantically rather than contextually is going to make finding things on the web easier and more relevant.