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Caterina Fake's, launching Monday, is already redefining 'decision engine'

June 9, 2009 |  1:43 pm

Hunch Microsoft's megabucks advertising campaign for couldn't have come at a better time for Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake's new consumer advice site,

With much pomp and circumstance, Microsoft is trumpeting the notion of a "decision engine" -- an online service that helps users make the right choice on a variety of lifestyle and purchasing questions.  That description might loosely apply to Bing's approach to Web search, but it fits Hunch -- which launches Monday -- to a tee.

Dog-breeds-hunchAfter a year in development, Hunch aims to supply users with computer-generated answers to thousands of lifestyle questions -- what kind of dog should I buy; what should I get Dad for Father's Day; which book by George Orwell would I like?

Rather than searching the open Web for answers, like Bing, or collating written opinions, like Yelp or Mahalo Answers, Hunch compiles personally tailored advice: First, it figures out what kind of person you are with a long personality test, then it offers a list of hunches about the choice a person like you would be most likely to make. 

The more people use the site and create data-rich demographic profiles, the founders hope, the better Hunch will get at guessing your preference.

"We’re nothing like a search engine," Fake said in an interview from New York.  "We’re more related to the answers sites."  (After Fake rode Yahoo's acquisition of Flickr into a position at that company, she worked on Yahoo Answers, where the idea for Hunch germinated.) 

"Bing is kind of doing us a big favor by popularizing the idea that people go online to make decisions. But I don't think we're competitive with them."

Still, Fake said, "they have this $80-million [ad] campaign that talks about decisions.  We’re kind of like, go Microsoft!"

-- David Sarno