Comprehensive Search System Atlas Recall Enters Open Beta
December 1, 2016
We learn about a new way to search nearly everything one has encountered digitally from TechCrunch’s article, “Atlas Recall, a Search Engine for Your Entire Digital Live, Gets an Open Beta and $20M in Backing.” The platform is the idea of Atlas Informatics CEO, and Napster co-founder, Jordan Ritter, a man after our own hearts. When given funding and his pick of projects, Ritter says, he “immediately” chose to improve the search experience.
The approach the Atlas team has devised may not be for everyone. It keeps track of everything users bring up on their computers and mobile devices (except things they specifically tell it not to.) It brings together data from disparate places like one’s Facebook, Outlook, Spotlight, and Spotify accounts and makes the data available from one cloud-based dashboard.
This does sound extremely convenient, and I don’t doubt the company’s claim that it can save workers hours every week. However, imagine how much damage a bad actor could do if, hypothetically, they were able to get in and search for, say, “account number” or “eyes only.” Make no mistake, security is a top priority for Atlas, and sensible privacy measures are in place. Besides, the company vows, they will not sell tailored (or any) advertising, and are very clear that each user owns their data. Furthermore, Atlas maintains they will have access to metadata, not the actual contents of users’ files.
Perhaps for those who already trust the cloud with much of their data, this arrangement is an acceptable risk. For those potential users, contributor Devin Coldewey describes Atlas Recall:
Not only does it keep track of all those items [which you have viewed] and their contents, but it knows the context surrounding them. It knows when you looked at them, what order you did so in, what other windows and apps you had open at the same time, where you were when you accessed it, who it was shared with before, and tons of other metadata.
The result is that a vague search, say ‘Seahawks game,’ will instantly produce all the data related to it, regardless of what silo it happens to be in, and presented with the most relevant stuff first. In that case maybe it would be the tickets you were emailed, then nearby, the plans you made over email with friends to get there, the Facebook invite you made, the articles you were reading about the team, your fantasy football page. Click on any of them and it takes you straight there. …
When you see it in action, it’s easy to imagine how quickly it could become essential. I happen to have a pretty poor memory, but even if I didn’t, who wants to scrub through four different web apps at work trying to find that one PDF? Wouldn’t it be nice to just type in a project name and have everything related to it — from you and from coworkers — pop up instantly, regardless of where it ‘lives’?
The main Atlas interface can be integrated with other search engines like Google and Spotlight, so users can see aggregated results when they use those, too. Interested readers may want to navigate to the article and view the embedded sales video, shorter than two minutes, which illustrates the platform. If you’re interested in the beta, you can sign up here (scroll down to “When can I start using Atlas?”). Founded in 2015, Atlas Informatics is based in Seattle. As of this writing, they are also hiring developers and engineers.