Technorati launched a new search annotation feature today, letting site members briefly explain the rising popularity of a keyword or phrase. The original idea for Technorati WTF came from a few Technorati super fans and an internal hack day over a year ago.


Technorati’s top searches have always been a good way to track popular news themes of the moment. Top searches against a blog search engine often correlate with the news and information the blogosphere is hunting for at any given time. If a web hosting company was offline for an extended period of time, you’d start seeing their name in the top searches. If there’s a celebrity breakup, freak out, or skirt lifting it usually makes its way to the top searches. If Apple releases a new product…well, you get the point.

Sitting around the Technorati offices someone might blurt out “WTF did Paris Hilton do now?” as a mass of searchers look for the phone numbers of celebrities, night vision camera footage, or Tinkerbell’s latest wardrobe. Back then most Technorati employees sat in the same room, and someone probably already knew why Paris Hilton, Dreamhost, or Wikipedia was an especially popular search that day and would answer the proclamation of puzzlement almost right away.

Technorati’s frequent users noticed the puzzling top searches as well. A few bloggers summarized the top news of the day by annotating Technorati’s top searches on their own blog and linking to the site where the news broke or wherever had the best coverage of the day. When big news happened, such as the London bombings or Hurricane Katrina, Technorati created a special search result page with the familiar reverse chronological view of posts and a special sidebar summarizing the latest news on the topic and top sources of information.

At an internal hack day a little over a year ago a few employees decided to add these search explanations to any search result, letting a Technorati member help other searchers add context and find top sources a bit quicker. These search explanations were used internally by Technorati staff to annotate a few top searches and clue a few other people in to the searched news of the day as quickly as possible. I believe former employees Derek, Jason, and possibly Ben worked on the original hack but it’s been a while and there was beer involved during the hack presentation, so those brain cells have since faded.

Technorati WTF feature

Barack Obama WTF on Technorati

The new Technorati WTF feature adds few useful features to the original hack by letting multiple people annotate a search and searchers viewing the page vote on the explanation and information they found more useful. The search explanations are usually tied to a topic of the moment, explaining for example why the iPhone or Nintendo Wii is especially popular today, tracking new news and developments even when a search term has long-term popularity.

Technorati WTF is a mini-blog post aimed at a specific audience. Bloggers who used to try and summarize the top search results on their own blog and attract the attention of searchers can now add a note and possibly gain a reputation directly on the Technorati search result page. It’s a OneBox-like placement for the knowledge search item best matching your query.

I like the new feature and I think it will save people some time as they track the top news stories and sources of the day. I’m surprised the final product name was Internet slang term WTF under the family-friendly “where’s the fire?” rebrand, but I suppose that will just be an inside joke among geeks.

Disclosure: I own a piece of Technorati