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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 May, 2004, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
Search business turns serious
By Mark Ward
BBC News Online technology correspondent

For some people, particularly in business, Google and other net search engines are just not good enough.

Trader at Frankfurt Stock Exchange, AP
Up-to-date information is important for everyone
Although the web has given the person in the street access to more information than ever before and Google has made it easy to search through that vast pile to find what you want, typically business users need even more.

So argues Clare Hart, boss of search firm Factiva which was formed in 1999 from Dow Jones Interactive and Reuters Business Briefing.

Factiva brings together information from more than 9,000 sources including newspapers, newswires, transcripts of news programmes from the BBC and other broadcasters, plus historical stock market data.

It is a program for desktop machines that lets customers search for information among this pool of sources.

Business brief

In its pre-Factiva incarnation, it was used by librarians and other information professionals whose job it was to find and supply facts to other people.

Clare Hart, Factiva
Everyone has become a searcher
Clare Hart, Factiva
The growth of the web as a vast corpus of data threw that role into question.

"In 2000 and 2001 so many times we had customers saying to us that most of this is available for free on the web," said Ms Hart.

But, she said, 60% of what Factiva offers is not online for free.

And, said Ms Hart, even if all the sources were available online she is sure that Factiva would still have a role to play.

The reason for this is because, as Google and others are starting to realise, the sheer number of results a search system can serve up are not enough.

"When you do a search you're not interested in quantity," said Ms Hart, "you want relevant research and quick access to relevant results."

"I think people get very frustrated by Google results," she said. "The lack of quality results and the fact that they have to register with more and more websites."

Search rivalry

As a business tool, Factiva knows that if you search for Orange you will be looking for the phone firm rather than the county or fruit.

Canary Wharf, BBC
Search is a serious business for many firms
What is important to Factiva users is the fact that they know the sources it uses have a history and legitimacy that many on the web do not yet possess.

Also information tends to make it on to the wires long before it gets on to the web.

But, said Ms Hart, many firms use both Google and Factiva side by side.

And the growth of the web and the success of search sites has forced firms like Factiva to react, said Ms Hart.

Factiva, like Google and many other search engines, can be queried via a toolbar and the service has been reworked to reflect users' growing familiarity with the net and the tools it is creating.

Now, for instance, news feeds that come out of Factiva are in web formats allowing them to be put into documents and pages to provide up to data information.

"The web has turned everything upside down and has made it so much easier to get access to information," she said. "Everyone has become a searcher."

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