Cadabra Inc. (Now GoTo Shopping)

Integrating Information from Databases and Web Pages

The high profile sale of Cadabra Inc., recently acquired by, helps to reinforce a trend: lucrative e-commerce applications are successfully being built with Allegro CL and Lisp.

The foundation of GoTo Shopping is a flexible data normalization technology called Dynamic Data Integration (DDI) which allows consumers to comparison-shop online using everyday shopping terminology and techniques. This technology is the result of years of research by Cadabra Inc. founders Narinder Singh and Donald Geddis, and enables accurate, relevant product comparisons on price, product and detailed product attributes. The application solves the difficult problem of integrating disparate databases. Sources can range from huge legacy databases to Web page catalogs, and each source can be unified into the overall picture by a simple Web-based configuration step.

"With the rise of the Internet and the Web, there is a tremendous volume of online data," explains Geddis of "The problem is no longer whether the data is out there; instead it is finding, analyzing, and filtering it from the vast sea of information."

Geddis and Singh selected Allegro CL because of its rapid prototyping and its power in symbolic programming. "In a software startup, resources are very tight," comments Geddis. "We have a very sophisticated application and we needed to maximize the productivity of our programmers. We had to build working code from scratch in a few months and Lisp was the only option.

"Large, complex, symbolic applications such as ours (which includes an automated reasoner), need facilities such as list processing, memory management, continuations and closures. Lisp provides these. We would have had to write them from scratch if we used other languages," adds Singh.

To provide a shopping web site that scaled to huge numbers of users, Geddis and Singh also needed to build on a highly reliable platform. "We needed the stability of a mature language like Common Lisp and we were impressed with the great performance we got with Allegro CL's optimizing native-code compiler. Our engineering team was astounded by the superior quality that Lisp offered," emphasizes Geddis.

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