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Mobile Search, Non-Google Style

LAS VEGAS - At 26, Zaw Thet looks more like a tanned California surfer than the 26-year-old CEO of, a two and a half year old mobile search company. 4Info, based out of Palo Alto, Calif., so far has only focused mostly on text search --- a service also offered by Google and Yahoo that allows you to send a text message to 4INFO (44636) with a query, like "pizza las vegas" and get results back for local parlors. Yesterday, the company ventured into the more contested area of Internet search on phones. This is search using the mobile browser, an area many companies are already trying to tackle.

But Thet says he's not trying to be like the others. "We're not a good research Web engine," he said. If you're looking for the periodic table, or historic information -- something most mobile Internet searchers aren't doing anyway -- this isn't your service.

What 4Info tries to do is determine, based on the words in your query, what it is you're looking for and then direct you right to that information. For example, "Washington Redskins" would get you the team's latest scores, not a set of links. More broadly, "NFL" would pull up all the most recent game scores. Similarly, typing a search for "United LAS IAD," meaning the airline and the airport codes for Las Vegas and Dulles airports, will pull up all the recent and pending flights between those cities on that airline.

The goal is to minimize the number of clicks a user has to make on a phone, which is still slower to upload pages, Thet said. And the engine is designed to learn about you over time. It would know, for example, based on your area code and past searches whether your "Pasadena" search is for the town in California or Texas.

4Info's big score so far is that it is providing search for USA Today's mobile site and is contracted with that newspaper to deliver text sports alerts to subscribers as well.

By Yuki Noguchi  |  January 8, 2007; 4:00 PM ET  | Category:  CES 2007 , Yuki Noguchi
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