Yasni Puts the People in People Search

Last week I introduced you to Yasni, which bills itself as the world’s most popular people search engine. It offers some good figures to back up that claim. It’s based in Germany; is it ready for a US audience? Is it worth registering to use? That’s what we’re about to find out.

We left off last time with my registering with Yasni by giving them my name and email address, and clicking on a link in an email to confirm. That’s hardly enough to create a profile. There is an option on the home page when I’m logged in now for me to extend my profile, and I’ll do that in a bit. Right now, since my lack of knowledge of the German language kept me from using Yasni before I became a registered user (and thus got access to the English version of the web site), I’m going to show you what Yasni returns when you do a people search. Hint: it may actually be worth the effort to register.

To give you a better appreciation of how much you get, I’m going to show you a full screen shot, and then close-ups of some of the important sections, with explanations. Keep in mind, I wasn’t able to include the portions you’d have to scroll down to see; Yasni gives you long pages when it delivers results. So here’s what I got when I entered Judith Bemis, the name of a close friend of mine:


Okay, I’ll start with the top rectangle (between the two thick yellow-orange bars) and proceed clockwise. First, there’s a red link that says “I know Judith Bemis;” clicking on that enables you to send invites to people to have them join your network. The red link below that says “I’m looking for Judith Bemis.” Clicking that takes you to a box that offers two options. One is to request the complete results of your search, and have Yasni email them to you in 24 hours. The other is to place a missing person ad with Yasni’s partner Homundus.

You don’t normally get these kinds of options with a search engine, so an explanation is in order. Yasni returns plenty of results, but it is a little slow; they don’t have Google-sized resources after all. So when you do a search, you don’t quite get everything. If you want more, you can request Yasni to email the full set to you, and you will receive an email from them within 24 hours with everything they could find. The second option, placing an ad with Homundus, isn’t free. According to Yasni, Homundus is an experienced international people finder, and can find people even after decades. All that Yasni does is provide the initial contact. I haven’t seen either of these options with any other search engine of any kind.

Now I’d like to focus on the rectangle you’ll find on the right side in the earlier screen shot.

 

Obviously it’s a keyword cloud, to which I can even add if I want. Since I know my friend, I quickly pick out two keywords I know apply to her, and can click on them to refine my results. (Hint: it’s not the anxiety- and panic-related keywords; those relate to another Judith Bemis who literally wrote, if not THE book, at least several books on the subject). Below this box, by the way, is the image area; I’m a little surprised to see that no images of my friend turned up, when another people search engine I reviewed recently found a number of images of her.

Yasni provides other ways for you to refine your results. Moving on to the area where the list of results actually starts, you’ll see some useful tabs:


Before I explain the tabs, let me explain the writing above them. Yes, Yasni did in fact display 30 results on this page. Clicking on “Show more than 200” on the right brings up a box that lets you ask to receive the rest of them via email. I’m of two minds about this approach, but given Yasni’s resources and how long a full search would likely take, this is probably the best compromise.

As I mentioned when talking about the tag cloud, I found two keywords that related to my friend. It would have been nice if I had been able to click or highlight them both, because they dealt with areas of her life that did not overlap. While I got useful information, each time I clicked a keyword in the tag cloud, it brought up a different tag cloud – that did not include the other keyword of interest. That can actually be a plus under some circumstances; for example, if you’re applying for a computer programming job, and an employer is looking for information about you, he’ll click on the words in the tag cloud related to technology – and perhaps avoid discovering that you’re a big NASCAR fan or some other thing that doesn’t relate to a job offer.

To wrap up this section, let me tell you what sites Yasni went to for information. You may not have noticed it from the screen shots I displayed, but Yasni actually broke out the results by site. For Judy, it went to addresses.com, Amazon, Google Blogs, Find a Grave, and then the general web.

Now we’ve reached the part of Yasni where it plays like a social network. My profile is pretty empty at this point; here’s a screen shot:


Why it seems to think I’m from Germany when I registered through the US version of the site, I have no idea. But it does encourage me to click on the “Edit your profile” link. I get a form to fill out. The form lets you add information to your profile, of course, that you can make visible to everyone or just your own contacts; the latter is checked by default. That’s the right way to do it; I expect no less from a Germany-based company. You can enter contact information, including your phone numbers and IM information; you can even enter your birth date, although Yasni says it will only display your age (another good security measure).

Now if you look to the bottom left of that screen shot, you’ll see a red box around the phrase “Add results.” Click it, and Yasni does an ego scan on your name. It turned up 83 results for me, with at least four relevant keywords in the keyword cloud: “SEO,” “Search,” Search Engine,” and “Searchles.” It also turned up 12 images, none of which were related to me.

In earlier screen shots you may have noticed that the search results had little red check boxes next to them. If you check one, you can add it to your profile. This is a way for users to distinguish between results that are relevant to them, and those that aren’t. Adding results to your profile is a simple matter of going down the list, checking the boxes next to the relevant results, and clicking a link at the bottom of the page. Out of 83 results, I initially found only seven that were relevant for me – and a lot of the ones that weren’t relevant were for other writers with the same name. There were even a few that write about technology. (Accept no substitute!).

Refining my search via the keyword cloud yielded somewhat different results, however. I found so many people referencing articles I’ve written that it’ll be a minor miracle if I get through this review without a swelled head; now, of course, I have no excuse for not commenting on the blogs and thanking them for citing me. I also found a few sites that outright stole some of our content (again). It’s worth noting, by the way, that these links did NOT turn up in the initial search. I refined through the keyword cloud several times, and ended up with more than 20 links in my profile.

Finding what you want is a little trickier when you’re looking for someone you don’t know well – or that has a common last name. We just hired a programmer, and I really couldn’t find him in Yasni’s results. Or, more precisely, I couldn’t be sure which of the many results returned were him – though, to be fair, I could eliminate a few. Perhaps Yasni, and other people search engines, should consider coming up with a way to directly remove results from a particular search, so you could narrow things down. The keyword cloud and tabs help, but sometimes it isn’t enough.

That said, there are many things that Yasni gets right. The tag cloud itself is a help, and I like the way that Yasni groups several results from the same source (such as Amazon) under one heading. I’m not sure how well combining people search with profiles and some social aspects (you can invite others to join and send and receive messages, for example) will work out, but Yasni isn’t the only one trying this; Spock also lets you “claim” profiles and add relevant information.

Yasni founder and CEO Steffen Ruehl has a very clear vision for the company. He wants his search engine to be able to find “anybody across the web.” “It’s cliché to say we want to be the Google of people search,” Ruehl admits, but it’s very clear that whenever someone intends to look up a person on the Internet, he wants them to think of Yasni first as the go-to place for people search.

It’s not an easy goal. The company has only been around since 2007, after all, and despite its traffic, it’s definitely still in the start-up phase. At the time of this writing, it employs 20 people and boasts three offices, all in Germany. In addition to the potential resource issues this raises (which Yasni deals with admirably), there is the competition Yasni faces from other people search engines that have been around longer – and indirectly from Google, which is still the search engine that most people think of first for ANY kind of Internet search, whether they’re trying to get information on a person, product, disease or what have you. But it already has some good ideas, and it will be interesting to see how they develop. 

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