Technorati CEO sees opportunity in the changing Web

In an interview, Technorati CEO Richard Jalichandra talks about executive upheaval, expansion plans, and the future of the company

When Richard Jalichandra became Technorati's CEO in October, the company, a blogging and Web 2.0 pioneer, had generated enough drama in recent years to rival a soap opera.

Founded in 2002 and led by its charismatic founder and CEO David Sifry, Technorati was a central player in the dizzying rise of blogs, serving as bloggers' preferred search engine and embracing the spirit and technology of the Web 2.0 renaissance.

But by 2005, many of its most ardent fans had become regular and increasingly disenchanted critics, questioning everything from Technorati's ability to index and rank blogs properly to its business partnerships and decisions.

Last year saw much management upheaval, as Sifry, Vice President of Engineering Adam Hertz, Chief Technologist Tantek Celik and others left their posts, opening the door to new arrivals, including Jalichandra, who has broad experience with Internet startups and online media. (Sifry remains Technorati's board chairman.)

IDG News Service talked to Jalichandra last week about Technorati's future and its biggest challenges and opportunities. The following is an edited transcript of the interview, conducted at the Social Networking Conference in Miami Beach, where Jalichandra gave a speech.

IDG News Service: Is calling Technorati a blog search engine too narrow a definition of what the company does?

Jalichandra: Our heritage has been, is and will always be in blog search. We're one of only two real-time search indexes covering the blogosphere: us and Google. That said, one of the things we found people are doing on our site is trying to discover things that are going on in the blogosphere or follow conversations. So we recently added a discovery layer [called Percolator] on top of the search infrastructure so people can have more of a reading/browsing experience in addition to searching. Percolator's intention is to find out what's gaining attention either in blogs or mainstream media.

IDGNS: The boundaries between blogs and conventional Web sites have blurred significantly in recent years. How do you tackle that challenge if your mission is to index blogs specifically?

Jalichandra: Yes, there's a huge blur that's occurring. Mainstream media gets it now, and they realize that they can create a lot more content with participation from the community. Today, a lot of mainstream media articles are written on a blogging platform as opposed to a [traditional] content management system, and it's an interesting challenge.

IDGNS: Has Technorati then become a much broader and more encompassing search engine?

Jalichandra: That's absolutely true. Our audience has more than doubled in size in the last year, and so has the amount of data in our index. We're definitely collecting and serving a lot more information than we have in the past.

[According to comScore, Technorati's traffic grew from 948,000 unique visitors in December 2006 to 2.8 million in December 2007. By comparison, Google's Blog Search declined from 398,000 unique visitors to 359,000 in that period, although Google also serves up blog results in other of its engines, like News, Images and general Web search. Meanwhile, Technorati says it currently tracks 112.8 million blogs and more than 250 million "pieces of tagged social media."]

IDGNS: Are the executive changes at Technorati now finished?

Jalichandra: In the evolution of any company, and particularly startups, you have different skill sets for different stages. Our founder [David Sifry] is an amazing technologist, product evangelist and visionary, and he realized about a year ago that the business was getting big enough and that he needed professional media expertise, because at the end of the day the ultimate business model will be based around online advertising -- and he didn't have that background. Then, subsequently, we had some more people join the company with that kind of media expertise and, if anything, we're going to be throwing gasoline on the fire and adding a lot of people both on the technology side and the media and business sides.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service

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