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Tech Update: Improvements to Search

Jan 7, 2009

by Vanessa Bertozzi

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

UPDATE: Our new Search system is now live! Please post in this forum thread with your comments.

This week we are replacing Etsy’s existing search technology with Solr, an industry-leading, open-source search system. Solr is currently in use by major consumer sites like Netflix as well as important e-commerce sites like Zappos.  We believe it will provide Etsy the foundation to scale in terms of both speed and functionality.

You may recall that Maria Thomas, Etsy’s CEO, recently mentioned that we are going to be focusing on Search in 2009 and that we intend to orient Etsy’s search function more to buyers’ needs.  This first phase launch of Search is the first in what we expect to be a series of improvements to Etsy’s search function throughout the year.

For this initial launch we primarily focused on improving the speed with which search results are returned on Etsy. We believe you’ll notice immediate and significantly faster results, though specific return times will vary based on your location and type of connection.

In addition to speed improvements, the Solr technology is smarter than our old search technology in how it handles certain queries. A specific improvement worth mentioning is the way in which the new system handles searches containing compound words. In our old system, a search for “notecards” would bring up items containing “notecards” in the tag, title or description field, but items containing only “note cards” (two separate words) would not show up in results. With our new search system, searches containing compound words like “notecards” or “hairbows” return all associated items.

There’s no need to make any updates to your item descriptions and tags to accommodate these improvements but this launch is a great time to remind sellers about the importance of accurate tags, titles and descriptions. You can find more info on how to best tag items in these tagging how-tos.  We will be holding a Tagging Workshop in the Virtual Labs on Wednesday at 5pm (Eastern).

Future phases of Search will include upgrades to the relevancy and ranking of the results. The way current search results are displayed (ranking) is based on chronology (most recently listed items first). We believe that Etsy buyers will be better served by a system that takes into account both ranking and relevance in a way that helps them find items they’re looking for according to various criteria by category.  And, for those buyers who may not know what they’re looking for, we also hope to introduce later in 2009 tools to foster discovery based on all the hearting and curating that takes place across the Etsy community every day.

While our main goal with Search is to help buyers find what they’re looking for, we are mindful that sellers want various options to promote their items on Etsy. Redesigning the search function and creating new ways for sellers to advertise on Etsy are two important initiatives that are in the works for the first half of 2009.

Our new Search system will be launching later this week; we will update this post when it’s actually live. We look forward to your feedback. Please post in this forum thread with your comments.


ps
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