Bottlenose Beat Bit.ly to the First Attention Engine – But It’s Going to Get Interesting

July 27th, 2012

Bottlenose (disclosure: my startup) just launched the first attention engine this week.

But it appears that Bit.ly is launching one soon as well.

It’s going to get interesting to watch this category develop. Clearly there is new interest in building a good real-time picture of what’s happening, and what’s trending, and providing search, discovery, and insights around that.

I believe Bottlenose has the most sophisticated map of attention today, and we have very deep intellectual property across 8 pending patents and a very advanced technology stack behind it as well. And we have some pretty compelling user-experiences on top of it all. So in short, we have a lead here on many levels. (Read more about that here)

But that might not even matter because I think ultimately Bit.ly will be a potential partner for Bottlenose, rather than a long-term competitor — at least if they stay true to their roots and DNA as a data provider rather than a user-experience provider. I doubt that Bit.ly will succed in making a search destination that consumers will use and I’m guessing that is not really their goal.

In testing their Realtime service, my impression is that it feels more like a Web 1.0 search engine. Static search results for advanced search style queries. I don’t see that as a consumer experience.

Bottlenose on the other hand, goes way into a consumer UX, with live photos, newspapers, topic portals, a dashboard, etc. It is also a more dynamic, always changing, realtime content consumption destination. Bottlenose feels like media, not merely search (in fact I think search, news and analytics are actually converging in the social network era).

Bottlenose has a huge emphasis on discovery, analytics, and other further actions on the content that go beyond just search.

I think in the end Bit.ly’s Realtime site will really demonstrate the power of their data, which will still mainly be consumed via their API rather than in their own destination. I’m hopeful that Bit.ly will do just that. It would be useful to everyone, including Bottlenose.

The Threat to Third-Party URL Shorteners

If I were Bit.ly, my primary fear today would be Twitter with their t.co shortener. That is a big threat to Bit.ly and will probably result in Bit.ly losing a lot of their data input over time as more Tweets have t.co links on them than Bit.ly links.

Perhaps Bit.ly is attempting to pivot their business to the user experience side in advance of such a threat potentially reducing their data set and thus the value of their API. But without their data set I don’t see where they can get the data to measure the present. So as a pivot it would not work – where would they get the data?

In other words, if people are not using as many Bit.ly links in the future, Bit.ly will see less attention. And trends point to this happening in fact — Twitter has their own shortener. So does Facebook. So does Google. Third-party shorteners will probably represent a decreasing share of messages and attention over time.

I think the core challenge for Bit.ly is to find a reason for their short URLs to be used instead of native app short URLs. Can they add more value to them somehow? Could they perhaps build in monetization opportunities for parties who use their shortener, for example? Or could they provide better analytics than Twitter or Facebook or Google will on short URL uptake (Bit.ly arguably does, today).

Bottlenose and Bit.ly Realtime: Compared and Contrasted

In any case there are a few similarities between what Bit.ly may be launching and what Bottlenose provides today.

But there are far more differences.

These products only partially intersect. Most of what Bottlenose does has no equivalent in Bit.ly Realtime. Similarly much of what Bit.ly actually does (outside of their Realtime experiment) is different from what Bottlenose does.

It is also worht mentioning that Bit.ly’s “Realtime” app is a Bit.ly “labs” project and is not their central focus, whereas at Bottlenose it is 100% of what we do. Mapping the present is our core focus.

There is also a big difference in business model. Bottelnose does map the present in high-fidelity, but has no plans currently to provide a competing shortening API, or an API about shortURLs, like Bit.ly presently does. So currently we are not competitors.

Also, where Bit.ly currently has a broader and larger data set, Bottlenose has created a more cutting-edge and compelling user-experience and has spent more time on a new kind of computing architecture as well.

The Bottlenose StreamOS engine is worth mentioning here: Bottlenose has new engine for real-time big data analytics engine that uses a massively distributed and patent pending “crowd computing” architecture.

We actually have buit what I think is the most advanced engine and architecture on the planet for mapping attention in real-time today.

The deep semantics and analytics we compute in realtime are very expensive to compute centrally. Rather than compute everything in the center we compute everywhere; everyone who uses Bottlenose helps us to map the present.

Our StreamOS engine is in fact a small (just a few megabytes) Javascript and HTML5 app (the size of a photo) that runs in the browser or device of each user. Almost all the computing and analytics that Bottlenose does happens in the browser at the edge.

We have very low centralized costs. This approach scales better, faster, and more cheaply than any centralized approach can. The crowd literally IS our computer. It’s the Holy Grail of distributed real-time indexing.

We also see a broader set of data than Bit.ly does. We don’t only see content that has a bit.ly URL on it. We see all kinds of messages moving through social media — with other shortURls, and even without URLs.

We see Bit.ly URLs, but we also see data that is outside of the Bit.ly universe. I think ultimately it’s more valuable to see all the trends across all data sources, and even content that contains no URLs at all (Bottlenose analyzes all kinds of messages for example, not just messages that contain URLs, let alone just Bit.ly URLs).

Finally, the use-cases for Bottlenose go far beyond just search, or just news reading and news discovery.

We have all kinds of  brands and enterprises actually using our Bottlenose Dashboard product, for example, for social listening, analytics and discovery. I don’t see Bit.ly going as deeply into that as us.

For these reasons I’m optimistic that Bottlenose (and everyone else) will benefit from what Bit.ly may be launching — particularly via their API, if they make their attention data available as an additional signal.

This space is going to get interesting fast.

(To learn more about what Bottlenose does, read this)