eBay Ups Its Search Game With Cassini

eBay has a new search engine powering the results on its site, and from the sound of it, it’s a huge step up from the search experience of years past.

It’s called Cassini, and we first heard about it a little over a year ago, when news came out that both eBay and shopping rival Walmart having new search engines in the works. At the time, it was reported that eBay had poached several engineers from Microsoft’s Bing search unit to oversee Cassini.

At the end of this past May, eBay announced Cassini’s roll-out at the company’s Analyst Day. eBay news blog TameBay covered the announcement, reporting:

The new Cassini Search engine will index not only title but also everything else in the listing including the full description. Cassini will go further than pure keyword matching however. It will learn what’s important to a particular buyer and offer different selection depending on your preferences. For instance a new buyer that’s never purchased before on eBay might want to dial up trust and buy from in-country sellers with great feedback. A collector might want to dial up diversity and find the rare products to complete their collection. Other buyers may make buying decisions based on value and relevance and know exactly what they want to purchase but want the best price.

This week, eBay’s own company blog points to an in-depth Wired piece about Cassini. A site like eBay, as the article points out, has the challenge of keeping search results in tune with the constantly changing inventory, and the company think it’s getting it right, or at least a whole lot better than it used to. Here’s a snippet from Wired:

Of eBay’s 400 million listings, about 20 percent of that inventory leaves the system every day and is replaced by a similar volume of new listings. Prices change. Listings are revised. New signals are emerging constantly.

Engineers at eBay work to funnel that churn to thousands of servers in as close to real time as possible, Williams says. The goal is to index changes within 90 seconds—a demanding enough problem when trying to tame the data parsed by eBay’s old search engine, Voyager. To give Cassini the capacity to accomplish the same task while indexing vastly more data, eBay has built a data center from scratch in Utah (the shovel from the groundbreaking is in Williams’ office).

WIth the roll-out of Cassini, users shouldn’t notice a difference in the site’s experience, other than hopefully getting better search results to better help them find what they’re looking for.

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