B.C. isoHunt founder resurfaces to launch online search tool

WonderSwipe founder Gary Fung says he wants to change how people search online

WonderSwipe founder Gary Fung swipes through his search results | Photo: Chung Chow

Gary Fung has always had a healthy fascination for how people search online.

His first venture, the controversial torrent site isoHunt, worked as a search engine for those looking to illegally download movies, TV shows and music through a shared network.

But now the 35-year-old Richmond man wants to rethink how we do our Google searches — this time promising not to push the boundaries of the law — with a new tool called WonderSwipe.

Fung tells Business in Vancouver the mobile app speeds up search results by 10-100 times and removes ads.

He said the goal is get people to spend less time combing through slow, hard-to-read search results across multiple pages.

Instead, results appear like carousel slides through which users swipe left or right.

“As far as the idea, I would give credit to Tinder for that whole swiping left and right gesture,” Fung said, adding the tool is not related to the online dating service save for being an inspiration for the user interface.

“It’s so easy that even a one-year-old child would be able to swipe.”

WonderSwipe extracts text from website HTML and provides a summary to users — or what Fung calls bypassing the “computationally heavy” parts of the search process.

“We can render that summary in a very, very light way,” he said.

The search tool will operate on a freemium model for now.

Further down the road, Fund said he plans to generate revenue by occasionally inserting ads into the slides.

“Maybe one out of every 100 swipes you would see one [ad] being inserted, but that ad that’s being inserted, you could easily swipe through,” he said, adding he will likely add user subscriptions further down the road.

And, perhaps to the benefit of his own bank account, he does not expect this new tool to rankle big corporations like isoHunt did.

Fung founded the torrent search site in 2003, when he was a 19-year-old student at the University of British Columbia.

Rights-holders came after Fung five years later and he settled with Music Canada for $66 million in 2016.

The settlement came three years after isoHunt shut down and was ordered to pay the Motion Picture Association of America US$110 million.

“It gave me much more appreciation for the law. Not to say I did something wrong,” he said.

“I think sharing, and sharing culture, it’s an issue that’s been going on for a long time, since the Internet [started]. And even with isoHunt gone, it’s an issue that has not gone away.”

torton@biv.com

@reporton