Taming the Wild, Wild Web
Imbruce, Doug, Newsweek
Byline: Doug Imbruce
About 18 months ago, I took a trip to Buenos Aires. Naturally, I searched the Web for information on the city, but what I found didn't feel natural at all. There were lists of links; spammy, dense blocks of text; and a hodgepodge of videos and advertising. It took so long to assemble key facts about the city, I almost missed my flight. Amid this frustrating experience, however, I also had a moment I'll never forget. I realized that what the Web needs isn't another search engine. It needs story, a quintessentially human way to experience information.
In the evolution of the Web, it's the logical next step. Raw computing power has grown exponentially for decades, and thanks to a previous generation of inventors and entrepreneurs, we already have the architecture to house and sort mounds of data--which is why we have the happy problem of an information surplus. The push now should be toward recasting this stockpile into a relatable form. Using the Web to get an overview of Buenos Aires? The experience should feel no different than having a well-traveled friend guide you through his photo album. That, at least, was my vision.
When I presented it to investors in Manhattan, they told me I was nuts. But last month--after voiding my own life savings, securing other investors, and moving to Silicon Valley--my vision finally came to life. I unveiled Qwiki, a platform for vivid, multimedia tours of a given topic. Built by a tech team lead by Louis Monier (creator of AltaVista, the first all-Web search engine), it won best startup at TechCrunch Disrupt, an uber-geek meetup in San Francisco. It's like "your personal HAL," said one of the judges, referring to the talking computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
I get the comparison: Qwiki takes raw information on, for starters, 2 million of the most popular Web topics and turns it into an interactive presentation on your chosen subject, narrated by a computerized voice (ours is female). …