Algolia: Doing What Exalead Failed to Do

May 7, 2018

I read “How Algolia Built Their Real-time Search as a Service Product.” Reading between the lines and doing a bit of thinking, I arrived a hypothesis. The story begins with the Exalead search system. (You can get some information from the original three editions of “The Enterprise Search Report” which I wrote between 2004 and 2008. I also have a for fee profile of Exalead which you can order by writing benkent2020 @ yahoo dot com. The report is $40 payable via PayPal.)

The developers of Algolia focused on the shortcomings of Exalead, which has not changed significantly since its purchase by Dassault Systèmes. A number of Exalead professionals have left the company and had an impact on a number of companies. That may be the case at Algolia, or the founders of Algolia identified the weakness of other French systems and moved forward. Does anyone think about Antidot, Datop, Pertimm, Sinequa, and other French centric search systems?

Crunchbase reports that Algolia says:

Algolia is the most reliable platform for building search. Our hosted search API supplies the building blocks for creating great search to connect your users with what matters most to them. Our hosted search API powers billions of queries for thousands of websites & mobile applications every month, delivering relevant results in an as-you-type search experience in under 50ms anywhere in the world. Algolia’s full-stack solution takes the pain out of building search; we maintain the infrastructure & the engine, and we provide extensive documentations to our dozens of up-to-date API clients and SDKs with all the latest search features, so you can focus on delighting your users.

The write up explains that the complexity of other search systems, the lack of a hosted cloud-based platform, and the failure to swap out proprietary code for open source alternatives have differentiated Algolia from other enterprise search systems.

Some reviews of the system are available on Stackshare. Among the strengths of the system are its speed, its ease of implementation, and its distributed search network. No negatives jumped out at me. Algolia seems to in a good place at this time.

The system is also available for free for “community projects.”

Several observations:

  1. Large companies purchasing search systems often find that change and improvement is difficult, if not impossible. Too bad for Exalead.’
  2. The open source orientation of Algolia may put some pressure on Elastic. I would include Lucidworks, but that company continues to borrow or chase venture funds because the home run swing is not yet butter smooth. But Algolia has ingested $74 million, and like Lucidworks, that money has to make money; otherwise, exciting events occur.
  3. French vendors have had some difficulty penetrating certain markets; for example, the US government. Perhaps Algolia will succeed where other French companies have fallen short.

For more information about Algolia, navigate to

I would point out that the European experts and the US SEO crowd have not paid much attention to Algolia. Quite a few dead horses are being whipped while Elastic romps forward. In the US, search means SEO, and that band of merry wizards remains convinced that Google will put their clients’ Web pages at the top of the results list without buying Google ads.

Yeah, and I believe in the tooth fairy.

Stephen E Arnold, May 7, 2018


One Response to “Algolia: Doing What Exalead Failed to Do”

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