Remember the days when we had to lift the huge encyclopedia off of the book shelf in order to search for a concept? At my house we had a four-volume set of fat, heavy monstrosities that I could barely contain as I lugged them off the book case to help in elementary school reports. Of course four or five years later at high school everyone just went online to look stuff up.
For Toronto-based Million Short founder Sanjay Arora , he said his parents would purchase those old 99 cent encyclopedia chapters, usually sold at grocery stores by the individual letter. He said they couldn’t afford to buy up the entire alphabet to complete the encyclopaedia, so his set often had a few missing letters.
But for anyone born within the past ten years, none of that experience is left over. Google and Bing searches reign supreme, and I even find myself politely giving people the LMGTFY url for any concept they feel the need ask about.
It’s a refreshing change to see a website like Million Short to come around. When a user searches anything, the website literally removes the first million websites (not the first million search items: it ends up being far more than a million). What results is a plethora of often high-value search results that aren’t driven by Google or SEO-related algorithms.
Arora randomly came up with the idea one Sunday night as he sat down to watch Mad Men with his wife. That night he coded through the night, creating what would be Million Short. The next day he put it on HackerNews and “it just kinda blew up and since then we’ve continued to work on it,” said the founder. “It’s really a thought experiment and I think there’s definitely room for an existence for such a tool.”
He said he’s receiving a lot of interest from librarians and even IT professionals in the education sector. Million Short’s vision is to see the tool installed on every Library machine, “just to give that alternate perspective to whats out there right now.”
“For the whole generation of kids who have grown up with Google and Bing, what you see on the Internet is a series of algorithms. It’s is a small subset of results that companies think you should see, but I think there’s a lot more out there than seeing the Huffington Post every time you search something news-related.”
It’s almost an enforced situation today, where information found on search websites is organized through content that’s skewed through SEO strategies. “They’re not necessarily bad strategies, and everyone wants traffic to their site. But once you figure out the game and you sort of re-write content to get viewers, you inherently change the content just by that nature,” said Arora.
Thus, Million Short removes a subset of the internet, leading to a lot of authentically human search results. “You get a lot of blogs written from the heart, true baseball fans, true sports fans, true moms who make awesome pasta for their kids, etc.”
Arora recived a ton of press this year for the novel tool, like this CBC Radio interview with Nora Young.