Online comparison tool VERSUS IO provides a web-based way for people to compare two items using simple, natural language. The tool launched with support for seeing how mobile phones stack up against each other, much like recently acquired Sortable‘s range of individual comparison tools, but plans to move into cameras and even people comparisons very soon. VERSUS is on track for 900,000 visits this month, of which the company says around 85 percent are unique, continuing a trend the site’s been seeing indicating rapid growth.
Since April when the site quietly launched, the site has seen around 500,000 unique monthly views on average. Founder and CEO Ramin G. Far says that the startup’s success has a lot to do with the product’s consumer appeal.
“Virality and social activity—people love our comparisons and massively share them,” Far responded when asked in an interview what’s propelled the growth so far. “A great product drives usage—VERSUS is a product which people like, just check the Twitter and press comments: “cleanest comparison site we’ve ever seen’—usually comparison sites are purely SEO optimized.”
As for the competition, there’s been a fair amount. Plenty of tools have cropped up to offer product comparison or influence consumer buying decisions, including Decide.com and Snapsort. But Far believes that VERSUS has significant advantages over all of these products, for a few different reasons.
“Snapsort has no strategy anymore,” he said. “They started with natural text comparisons too but then massively diluted their core by offering an entire shopping advisor. But people aren’t that stupid that they need to be guided from scratch. So, they do some vague shopping helper while we laser-focus on comparisons only, because they are usually the best and most exciting entry into any topic.”
Other points that set VERSUS apart from others taking a data-driven approach to comparisons include the ability to cross-compare one type of product against another (users can, for instance, compare tablets and cellphones, and will soon be able to pit cameras against cellphones and tablets, too), as well as standing behind a single, unified brand, rather than having multiple, vertical specific sites as with Sortable’s properties. On the flip side, some users may prefer the extensive charts and tables provided by the competition, but VERSUS thinks its more streamlined take is the better option.
There are also other sites attempting to get right to the heart of consumer decisions, via straightforward, human-powered advice. Two such examples are The Wirecutter and Findthebest. And while Far agrees that human input is key, and intends to build user-generated reasons into VERSUS comparisons, he doesn’t think that ultimately those types of sites are what consumers are looking for, precisely because they’re too limited.
“The Wirecutter and similar services like Findthebest will fail in the long run because they focus on just ‘the best’— in their UI, in their results and so on,” he said. “And to just offer the best from one category, like the best cheap phone doesn’t work because people have different requirements. One wants to play games with their phone while others need a rock-solid BlackBerry keyboard, so whats the best now?”
VERSUS plans to tackle a number of other verticals, but two on the immediate horizon include cameras (in testing and nearing release), and people comparisons. When comparing people, which are obviously quite different from any kind of consumer electronics, Far said that the company looked into the kinds of measures on which people are already compared everyday to determine what criteria it would use. That led them to things like résumés, number of friends on various social networks, size of house, type of car, and more specific data for subcategories based on profession, like successful exits for entrepreneurs and VCs. It should then not only have novelty value for everyday users, but also potentially worthwhile data for journalists, analysts and others keeping an eye on trends in particular industries and verticals.
Ultimately, Far’s goal is to make VERSUS an “engine with a solid API” that can plug into any kind of service, which could help it attract interest from bigger players looking to make smart acquisitions, much like interest analytics engine Hunch was snapped up by eBay.