A search and recommendation system employs the preferences and profiles of individual users and groups within a community of users, as well as information derived from categorically organized content pointers, to augment Internet searches, re-rank search results, and provide recommendations for objects based on an initial subject-matter query. The search and recommendation system operates in the context of a content pointer manager, which stores individual users' content pointers (some of which may be published or shared for group use) on a centralized content pointer database connected to the Internet. The shared content pointer manager is implemented as a distributed program, portions of which operate on users' terminals and other portions of which operate on the centralized content pointer database. A user's content pointers are organized in accordance with a local topical categorical hierarchy. The hierarchical organization is used to define a relevance context within which returned objects are evaluated and ordered.