First let me start by saying that Kosmix shows real promise but there are some aspects that quite frankly suck. The performance leaves a lot to be desired and while the modules that are included are interesting, I find myself wanting more meat and potatoes, as in more content and less twitter.
There is at the top of the page a “learn about” feature that builds a Kosmix page based on whatever entity you enter in the search box. The problem is that it doesn’t seem to work very well, the “learn about Jeff Nolan” page displays a wikipedia entry for someone else, a bunch of video/images from Nolan Ryan, and a few bits about a Detroit artist named Jeff Nolan. The learn about search was also prone to server connection issues and something not so obscure but not obvious either, like the “theory of relativity” search drew a blank in the form of a never ending “we’re building” message.
Another interesting note is that there is no personalization on this service, as in no login/identity and therefore no ability to rearrange and add/delete components based on my preferences.
Having said all that, I don’t think the intended purpose of Kosmix is to be a personalized start page but rather a news aggregation engine that collects disparate content and organizes it according to their taxonomy. You see this in action with their topics pages that are found when you scroll down and click on a category in the “feeling browsy” widget. There needs to be more content to be truly useful but I like where they are going with this.
How do they make money? Good question and I don’t know the answer, but the site is conspicuously absent of any advertising and while there is a shopping widget that probably generates some affiliate $$, I doubt it has the potential to add up to anything more than latte money. With a few more revolutions and a few tweaks in the mode, Kosmix could deliver this as a white label solution for publishers and content owners, charging an annual fee or doing advertising revenue sharing. There is also an emphasis on video, which always presents the opportunity to do high value pre-roll insertion, when possible.
Either way, monetization is going to depend on some notion of user demographics so the lack of personalization becomes a problem, but by going down that road they end up looking like a start page and that’s probably something they want to avoid.