The Accidental Technologist and His Subjective Search Engine

Ben (left) is the computer science genius.

Out of high school, I called myself an artist. Then I became a graphic designer, then a web designer, then a co-founder of an early social network which didn’t work out, then I ended up at Google. That was thirteen years ago. I’m an accidental technologist and despite having worked for Google, I’m a very unlikely person to associate with the future of search.

The bridge Google built.

When I worked at Google, the light was still dawning on people that for pretty much any question, there was a relevant document on the web. Such speed too. And quality. It was like magic. Forget asking friends, this was going to be the default from now on. Google bridged millions of lost souls with billions of web pages using a simple, horizontal rectangle.

Today, we take web search for granted. It’s a way of life. It’s the first place to go with any question. I’ve got a strong feeling that when Google decided they should start building cars, the world agreed that this whole search thing was pretty much figured out. You’ve got to admit, it does seem that way. Those guys are geniuses and we can’t live without web search.

But What If?

But, what if there were a completely different approach? What if pages on the web weren’t even in the equation? It’s not 1998, it’s 2016. The new six degrees of separation is four. Our mobile devices are practically an appendage. In other words, the technology landscape has completely transformed over the last twenty years. It’s time to rethink.

Evan Williams and I were having lunch the other day at Medium and he said to me, “The idea of Biz Stone running a search company is as improbable to me as Stewart Butterfield building enterprise software.” It wasn’t an insult, I happen to know Ev is fond of both Stewart and me. Then he asked me an interesting question. “What kind of search do you call this?”

Subjective Search

We were talking about Jelly 2.0, the app my team and I are building that tackles searching in a whole new way. We’re in closed beta right now and Ev is one of our beta testers. I answered his question with two words and we both agreed that it sounded right. Maybe a little jargon-y but nevertheless, it was an accurate way to describe Jelly. “Subjective Search.”

Part of our iOS app — you’ll find using Jelly quite familiar.

Jelly is the only search engine in the world with an attitude, an opinion, and the experience to back it all up. Only Jelly can say you asked the wrong question. Only Jelly can give you answers you wanted but didn’t think to ask. Only Jelly will deliver a thoughtful answer to your anonymous question. This is all because Jelly is just humanity dressed up as technology.

Ben is the software genius. Yes, we’re using a bit of AI. Yes, we’ve developed a unique, proprietary routing algorithm. But all the science is only in service of one thing: sending your question to a person who can help you because they’ve been there, they have the experience, they have the opinion, and most importantly, they have the answer you need.

Just about ten years ago, we saw the world going mobile and we built a simple tool to harness that potential in a productive way. With Twitter, we created a new form of communication that amplified humanity’s ability to spread ideas, to self-organize, and to do amazing things. Jelly is an extension of the same thinking: amplifying humanity with software.

Biz Stone,
Co-founder and CEO
Jelly Industries, Inc.

P.S. Please watch search expert, Danny Sullivan unearth yet more improbability with me at SXSW on Monday, March 14 at 12:30PM.


Originally published at medium.com on March 3, 2016.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Jelly’s story.