Word out today that Google is eyeing buying its way into another search market it does not yet own — with the possible purchase of Yelp.com. The community-driven local search and recommendation site has built a $30 million dollar business matching restaurants and other local businesses with user reviews, using another community driven strategy: Lucene open source search technology.
Yelp saw the opportunity to tap the growth of available data by doing a better job of getting their users the right data faster. Using Solr, the Lucene search server, rather let some other search service as middleman, meant Yelp had full control of the nuances required to perfect search results — and keep their users happy enough with the results that those same users would willingly create new content, in the form of reviews, for free.
In a world increasingly flooded by data, companies prosper by using search for (a) understanding their customers’ unique needs for information and (b) innovative ways of delivering on those needs. Open source search innovation gives numerical analysis, geo search, faceted navigation, and more, freely and easily. Yelp’s not the only one who’s used Lucene/Solr to do it. Zappos uses Solr search, and that got Amazon’s attention. To win with local search, Zvents, and Lucid Imagination customer AT&T Interactive have tapped Lucene’s superior performance, relevancy and scalability — and perhaps beat Google at their own game.