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QuestKeys: A Workaround for the Long URL Tangle

QuestKeys: A Workaround for the Long URL Tangle

Startup QuestKeys has a unique take on Web searching and linking. Instead of dealing with long URLs, QuestKeys provides a downloadable toolbar that users can access to quickly find and share favorite pages without being floored by the many links a typical search engine brings up. Getting noticed in a sea of unique search tools may be among the challenges lying ahead for QuestKeys.

By Jack M. Germain TechNewsWorld ECT News Network
05/06/08 4:00 AM PT

Daniel Allen sees a problem faced by Web surfers: How to share long URLs (universal resource locators) with others and quickly locate favorite Web pages or documents without wading through lists of browser bookmarks?

Allen and his wife, Mary Jane, are both self-taught programmers, among other professions. Their answer to the above problem is QuestKeys, a new approach to finding and storing links to Web sites and other digital information using their HyperTransfer Engine and QuestKeys.com.

A QuestKey is a word, number, symbol or phrase that links directly to a Web page when entered into the QuestKeys' HyperTransfer Engine. Each QuestKey is a hypertext link.

Users download the QuestKeys toolbar to their browser and enter the designated QuestKey. The HyperTransfer Engine then goes to the associated hypertext link where the Web page or other data is stored on their own Web site. Those users without their own Web pages can create them through QuestKeys.com and link directly to those pages. QuestKeys offers its users free access to create as many QuestKeys as they need to organize their Internet experience.

QuestKeys users can do more than just bookmark a Web site. They can direct family, friends and others to password-protected links. The QuestKey owner can also allow public access to enhance business marketing by linking to advertised products and services.

"It takes only 35 seconds to set up QuestKeys in the browser. We make it easier to organize Internet content," Daniel Allen, QuestKeys' CEO, told TechNewsWorld.

What It Does

In one place, QuestKeys lets users perform many of the tasks that usually require multiple Web sites and services. The basic hyperlink transfer concept provides users with a feature already available in similar offerings such as TinyURL.com. The tinyurl browser toolbar provides a shortcut method to eliminate typing overly long URLs that often break when pasted into e-mails as hyperlinks.

However, the HyperTransfer Engine the Allens created goes beyond simple bookmark shortcuts. For instance, it allows users to create Web pages that showcase home videos, literature, music, resumes, job listings, coupons, news, images, sales listings, trailers, music videos, business contacts and even script novels.

"It's becoming a virtual business card. Users include their QuestKey on their contact information," he explained. "We've instituted a marketing program that gives store owners a decal saying, 'My name is my QuestKey.'"

Eventually, he hopes his QuestKeys will replace the popular saying "Google me."

Big Crowd

Despite the innovative concept behind QuestKeys, the Allens' startup endeavors face an uphill battle in getting noticed by potential users. The Internet is filled with numerous alternative search methods. Part of the quest for the QuestKeys technology will be to avoid getting lost in the crowd.

That could prove to be one of the Allens' greatest hurdles. They have to figure out how to work QuestKeys into users' minds. The big question is, can QuestKeys get to the point that it has even a fraction of the instinctive familiarity that established search engines have achieved?

"Most [search alternatives] don't provide the 'go-to-it-on-instinct' that Google or Yahoo provides. They try to achieve this by similar design styles. The Web provides a platform for people to create new business ideas every day. The question is, are these people doing the market research to find users to support their new ways to search?" Billy Canu, CEO of search engine optimization firm SEOhaus, told TechNewsWorld.

Starting Point

The concept behind QuestKeys grew out of Daniel's frustration when he tried giving directions over the phone or in person to a Web site. This was an ongoing problem for him and his wife, both of whom run other businesses.

To eliminate any further confusion, he created the HyperTransfer Engine to replace long URL names with simple numbers, symbols or phrases. Thus, QuestKeys are for users who know where they're going and want to get there fast.

Solving that problem was an outgrowth of Allen's two personal philosophers. "Don't talk; just do" is one. The other is, "Anything that can be thought can be done."

The Challenge

So far, Daniel said he has not experienced much in the way of challenges other than the actual programming. He and his wife maintain a physical storefront in California for a music and film studio. The QuestKeys business was just an extension of other virtual services. They created dozens of exchange markets on line, copyrighted several source codes and registered numerous trademarks.

The Allens are self-taught programmers, having learned PHP (hypertext preprocessor), JavaScript, Flash and HTML (hypertext markup language) programming languages over the past two years, he said. With this new understanding of dynamic Web page design and development, they only had to figure out how to create the transfer engine.

"The only obstacle was the programming. Knowing how to ask the right questions takes a three-dimensional approach in thinking," he explained.

Working on the coding issues involved so many different ways of coming at the the solutions. Eventually they got over the stumbling blocks, he said.

Revenue Source

To seed a source of profit from the fledgling business, Daniel designed what he dubs the "In Between Advertising Engine." This engine allows advertisers to show their wares in-between every transfer. This is the unused space that Internet users see while waiting for a Web page to load.

On QuestKeys transfers, this space is filled with ads. Much like cable TV ads, advertisers can purchase advertising slots in one or more regions in different time configurations, he said. The technology allows users to sell or lease their QuestKeys advertising space to other vendors.

QuestKeys first launched in the United States and Canada in February 2008, has now populated over 500,000 QuestKeys and is still growing, he said.

Competitive Edge?

As vast as the search engine opportunities are on the Internet, Daniel is confident there's ample room for his unique slice of the action. Others in the business do not disagree with his view.

"Today, the world of the Web is changing dramatically. Search engines to date are all about how to search and how to find -- the search and find model," Venky Harinarayan, cofounder of Kosmix, told TechNewsWorld. Kosmix is an alternative search engine targeting three verticals: health, autos and travel.

Both broad and narrow models work for consumers and are complimentary, he said. For instance, if you want to look for "Hillary Clinton," a traditional search engine is best. However, if you want to look for "castles in Barnsley," a categorization engine like RightTrips.com might you better. Those Web surfers who do not want to get lost in a lot of links and want to have a view of everything in one place might find a Kosmix topics page best, he suggested.

Getting Noticed

Despite growing demand for new search methodologies, QuestKeys could find itself lost in the growing collection of services on the Internet. For instance, other upcoming trends have already gone into full effect, such as video and image searches provided by the big-league search engines like Google and Yahoo, noted SEOhaus' Canu. Instead of just finding an article, people can find the pictures and videos they need for a favorite topic.

Another huge trend right now is the Questions and Answer search. An example of this is Answers.com which provides a community of answers to questions that commonly get searched on the Internet, Canu explained.

What are the best chances of QuestKeys getting noticed by Web surfers in search of a better way? Besides search engine optimization, getting on sites like StumbleUpon.com is a good start, according to Canu. It allows its 5 million members to share different niche and innovative Web sites to get noticed. Also getting on social book marking sites like Digg or Reddit can help propel a site.


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