Snap buys into smarter search from New Zealand

Search engine Snap.com is making an equity investment in a New Zealand search-technology firm, GlobalBrain.net, whose product will go to work for Snap.com and its high-speed service, Snap Cyclone. Christchurch-based GlobalBrain, provides a popularity-ranking engine that seeks to improve search results by learning user preferences.

Search engine Snap.com is making an equity investment in a New Zealand-based search-technology firm, GlobalBrain.net, whose product will go to work for Snap.com and its high-speed service, Snap Cyclone.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed. GlobalBrain, which is based in San Francisco and Christchurch, provides a popularity-ranking engine that could potentially improve search results by learning user preferences, with technology similar to that used by Direct Hit. The technology was devised by the company's CEO Jim Ryan in the course of his PhD work about four years ago. Most of the company's existing small shareholders live in Southland.

It's unusual that a portal would actually invest in a search-technology provider. Most not only have their own tech (which Snap does as well), but also license from an outside provider like Inktomi or Direct Hit.

The deal calls for Snap to assume exclusive rights to GlobalBrain's search technology, which Snap Senior VP Shawn Hardin says his company will implement soon. "By the end of the quarter, Snap's directory and search results will be based on user information," Hardin says.

Snap is a joint venture of NBC and CNET. Just last month, NBC merged its assets Videoseeker, NBC's Interactive Neighborhood and NBC.com with Snap and community site Xoom.com to form NBCi. The combined entity is poised to take advantage of NBC's ubiquitous peacock logo and the power of NBC online promotion. Snap.com will be the main site in the combined company.

In the last year, NBC has quietly put together a collection of equity investments that it plans to leverage with NBCi. Investments in Talk City, Launch Media, iVillage and others are expected to bear fruit once the NBCi deal closes. Add GlobalBrain to the list.

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