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Startups by nature are transient. Every year, thousands of startups come to life, while thousands more get added to a long list of failed ventures. Along the way, we sometimes find startups that have become hugely successful, but also others that have quietly left their mark online and then disappeared into the sunset. Findory is one such startup. Opening its doors in 2004, Findory was a personalized news site that left an indelible impression on its users. Founded by Greg Linden, Findory was a one man team dedicated to personalizing information -- its core product happened to be news, but the goal was to apply personalization to all aspects of one's online life. The beauty of Findor was it's simplicity: when someone read articles on the site, Findory learned what stories interested that reader and changed the news that was featured to match that reader's interests. The recommendation engine was quite amazing - it started learning and recommending relevant content from the minute you started on Findory, and morever, it didn't even require registration. There was no complicated setup or customization required. The simple, non-intrusive nature of the site was one of its greatest attractions.
Behind the simple interface was some fairly complex algorithms. While he never discussed the details of his secret sauce, it was clear that Greg's background (he worked at Amazon.com) was being put to really good use. In fact, the entire concept of Findory was applying Amazon-like personalization and recommendations to information. Everyone who has used Amazon knows how great their recommendation engine is - I've made so many incremental purchases based on the 'You Might Also Like' feature on Amazon that I've lost count. From Greg's website: "Findory's personalization used a type of hybrid collaborative filtering algorithm that recommended articles based on a combination of similarity of content and articles that tended to interested other Findory users with similar tastes." Everything about Findory was personalized, right down to the advertisement recommendations!
After running the very popular service for three years, Greg decided to shut it down in 2007 to concentrate on other things he was passionate about: health and family! I wish him the best of luck. While it was certainly disappointing to see Findory go, I'm sure it has inspired a new breed to personalized web sites. There were things about Findory that may have been too early for its time (it was a personalized memetracker before anyone really needed or knew what to do with a personalized memetracker), and it might have been too focused on individual personalization thereby passing up opportunities in the social/collaboration space. Nonetheless, it was a great product however you cut it. While building NewsCred, our team has always kept in mind the two things that I loved about Findory: the simplicity and the incredible personalization. One day I'd love to spend some time with Greg to learn more about his algorithms so that we can bring you some of the Findory magic here at NewsCred. But until then, I thought I'd take a few minutes to pay a small tribute to a great product that rode off into the sunset recently.