Blekko: A genuine challenger to Google?

In August Memeburn reported that a new search engine called Blekko, backed by millions in venture capital, was coming to a browser near you.

It has been open to a limited amount of beta-testers, but on Monday officially went live. Challengers to Google have come and gone (anyone remember Cuil?) but this new startup is stepping up to try to make its mark in Internet search.

“When we started this company our goal was to build a search engine that not only let you do your usual searches but also lets you do searches that you just can’t do anywhere else,” Blekko chief executive Rich Skrenta said.

Blekko employs a feature it calls “slashtags” to allow users to narrow down their searches to only the most trusted and most relevant sites, cutting out spam sites and sites of poor quality.

“A slashtag is a tool to filter search results,” Blekko said. “Rather than searching the entire Web, a slashtag allows you to search just the sites you want searched.”

The challenge for Blekko is to figure out exactly which category it plans to own; then work to define it. At present, the most accurate term for what Blekko does is vertical search, which has been a highly-elusive category for large-scale, consumer-level entrants.

Skrenta said Blekko produces the most relevant results by allowing users to create slashtags that create lists of recommended sites.

“Not everyone has to participate for the model to work — most people don’t edit Wikipedia, yet we have a vast encyclopedia which long ago dwarfed the closed Britannica,” he said.

“But a small fraction of the Web audience that does get involved can help make the search experience better for everyone else,” he said.

Blekko also pledged full transparency with its search ranking data, showing how it ranks sites for any particular query.

Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of technology blog, noted that a number of search companies have failed in the past to break through in a market dominated by Google.

“By no means do I expect Blekko to become a Google killer,” Sullivan said in a blog post. “Despite Google’s flaws, it works extremely well for millions of people each day.”

But Sullivan said Blekko might find an audience among Web users “who seek an alternative for when Google or (Microsoft’s) Bing don’t come through.

“Special interest groups might also be attracted to the ability to create their own custom search engines,” he said. “If anything, I think that’s Blekko’s ultimate strength.” – Own reporter with AFP



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