Blekko – a new search paradigm

BlekkoBlekko, a $24 million venture-backed project that’s been in the works for three years, launched into Beta this past Monday, November 1, 2010.

The concept employed to make search results more relevant seems theoretically possible, but it relies on the public to drive the project forward by tagging search results in terms of relativity. The tags are referred to as “slashtags.” For example, “U2/music” could be one such slashtag. The company plans to earn revenue by selling ads based on slashtags and search results. Additional tools built into Blekko allow users to see the IP address that a website is running on and let registered users label a site as spam. Investors who have lined up in support of the new search strategy include Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, American “super angel investor” Ron Conway, U.S. Venture Partners, and CMEA Capital.

There is definitely potential here as the art of searching the web is still very young and has a lot of room for improvement. I doubt many users even know that when they do a search, they are not searching the entire Web as the entire Web is not indexed. Most of the general public doesn’t realize how much better search can be; they will realize when someone shows them. As Steve Job’s once said, “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

The traditional approach search sites employ to return relevant information is to use web crawlers/spiders to download web pages and then use automated algorithms to weed out irrelevant sites. The crawler (also called an ant, automated indexer, bot, spider, or software agent) is a computer program that browses the Web and goes through a massive amount of content while making copies of each web page for indexing. Second automated algorithms return relevant results to the user; the process is rather complicated.

The issue with the traditional approach is that the results usually come with “junk” attached. The traditional system can be played by several manipulation techniques. There are often malware sites and sites fishing for clicks lurking around in the results. The “slashtagging” approach may be a solution to make search results more relevant. Although, there is no saying that “slashtagging” is any less vulnerable than the traditional approach – at this point it just isn’t big enough to matter. For example, can’t “slashtagging” itself be played by automated programs that act as end users? In any case, it’s nice to see the innovation being employed to improve a crucial aspect of the growing Web. Time will tell of this specific strategy is able to succeed in the goal of providing more relevant search results. If it succeeds, there will be a new star rising among the ranks of search; if it fails, Blekko will become just another search site.


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