Rosenschein is content with answers to the million topics included in Answers.com, GuruNet's 2-month-old reference site. If you ask Rosenschein how his piddling million topics can compare with the 8 billion pages indexed by Google, Rosenschein will revert to his mantra: Answers.com is not a search engine.
Instead, the company--which survived an ill-fated foray into enterprise search--sees itself as an online compendium of reference sources, collecting on a single page about 100 information sources including encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs and search engines on topic pages about English words and notable people, places and things.
Rosenschein insists his company isn't competing with the search engines. But even as it gets closer to Amazon.com's A9 search site and to Google itself, GuruNet is inevitably carving out a search niche of its own that could turn the company into a serious threat or a valuable acquisition target.
Q: Back in 2000, when you gave up the consumer market for the enterprise market, your then-CEO explained the decision this way: "Under our old consumer model, we were too good at getting you the information and getting out of the way to succeed at monetization. That's what people loved about us. But from an ad standpoint it didn't work." What's changed since then? And how are you making money?
Rosenschein: I think that Google has pretty much validated that you can make money from consumer ads on the Internet. The Internet has changed since then. I think he misjudged the situation. The subscription model is under more pressure now than it was then, and the general Internet consumer side is far more robust than it was several years ago.
You frequently say you're not in competition with Google. But every time I Alt-click a term using your plug-in is a time I'm not Googling something.
Rosenschein: I think we're not head-to-head competitors. We are different. The search engines are different--it's built into their DNA to locate interesting and relevant Web pages, and the way they do that is by showing you lists, often long lists, of Web page links. That's what they do. Some show you advertising more prominently, some