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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Riya 2.0: Rapid Improvements or More Spin?

When I first reviewed Riya a few months ago, it fell way short of what was advertised then. Riya's CEO Munjal Shah pointed out that my test failed because I was using low-resolution images from the web and that Riya works only with resolutions of 2MP or higher. But a recent post on Munjal's blog and TechCrunch indicates that Riya may have now made that quantum leap to finding any image on the web.

Quote from TechCrunch:
"...When it’s ready, users will be able to search on an image (the easiest way will be via a browser plugin to search right from the page containing the images). See a rug on ebay that has a pattern you like? See other rugs from across the web containing similar patterns...See someone’s picture on MySpace that you like? Search on their photo to find single people who look similar and who have profiles up on match.com or other dating sites...".

If this is true, then a business model is finally emerging from Riya. The question is if this is a viable business model.

So, will it work?
The shift in strategy does indicate that Riya is under pressure from VCs to deliver a working product with a revenue stream.

The costs of indexing billions of images from across the web are pretty high. And then there is the issue of real-time responses to end users. Google's text-based searches have acceptable response times. When we change the input from text to images, we have to multiply that response time a few times. That will clearly put it beyond acceptable, unless Riya has some ground-shaking magic sauce.

Riya has also lost some time to a few possible competitors in this space. The recent departure of their marketing force, Tara Hunt, only add to its woes.

In summary, the costs associated with this shift are too high in comparison to the actual revenue which will likely be referral fees. Riya may have to go back to its drawing board very soon.

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