I was recently invited to the private Beta of a new wine search site called Snooth by Philip James, the site’s CEO. Snooth is a New York-based site that, very broadly, is a search engine for wines that combines searching wines and retail DBs, compiling of wine reviews/ratings into a composite “Snoothrank” rating, and social networking (friends, etc…). You can find more of the Ps and Qs from their press release a couple months back.
The interface is slick and with funding on the order of a few hundred thou I wouldn’t expect anything less (because I’ve seen similar done with far less). Lots of Ajax stuff to make the surfing smooth and overall a good
user experience. I did my surfing in a place with Tier-1 connectivity to the Internet (i.e. multiple gigabits/sec) so my surfing experience my be skewed by the fact that speed is more processor constrained than connection constrained.
I spent a while surfing around Snooth and inputting wines to try to get the recommendation engine to create a recommendation for me. It takes 5 reviews for the engine to start generating recommendations for you. Once you have those it takes a few days to start getting recommendations back. That feature seems pretty cool but I’m wondering if one would actually use it to make a purchase. Personally, my method of buying wines is to find a trusted source and then go to a site like Wine-searcher.com and search for the best place to buy. Snooth is sort of creating that trusted source with their recommendation engine. In spirit I understand the business impetus to attempt something like that as NetFlix generates something on the order of 60–70% of their rentals through recommendations. But I think a good deal of those are from friends. Luckily for Snooth, it has the friends feature so they’re not expecting you to ONLY use the automated engine. Right now, the “Friends” feature isn’t working. Probably would’ve made sense to get that going first, put the site up, start converting Wine-searcher.com users, and then get the automated engine up and running subsequently.
Snooth improves on Wine-searcher.com and other wine searching engines in its ability to use tags to search for wines (among many other modern web technological improvements) and it seems that while the engine imports wines from other sites part of that process is to parse tags from those sites. You can search on “Bar-b-que” or “summer” and get wines that have been tagged as such. Since Snooth imports wines from other wine sites and blogs (not sure the method but either crawling, microformats, importing DBs, or some combination of those) and parses out the ratings from those sources it is able to create a composite rating called a “Snooth Ranking” which is defines as:
SnoothRank is Snooth’s rating for the wine. Calculated using a proprietary algorithm which takes into account the wine’s reviews, the number of reviews as well as how trusted each review is. SnoothRank is a single, simple number which makes it easy for you to compare different wines and to feel secure in your decision.
So far they have a huge number of wines under Snoothrank and can get some information on many wines. I tested it out and it missed a couple of my wines but I tend to seek out very small wineries based on very specific recommendations (which I can do because I live in CA and have gotten to know many winemakers since I moved here).
Overall, Snooth has a very good shot at doing some good things in the industry if they can focus the site better, clarify who its for, and model the features to improve on that target’s buying experience. Right now there’s a little something for everyone there…which isn’t always a good thing. What do I think they should focus on doing? Check the headline of this post! (Of course, thats a selfish one…but its some seriously low-hanging fruit)…
Snooth.com is a welcome addition to the Wine Life! Good luck to the team over there!