Search Startup Moves Beyond Keywords

Newly launched Blinkx retrieves Web and local-drive results as users read, write and browse, not as they type search terms, its founders say.

To search startup Blinkx Inc., keywords are passé. The future of search lies instead with bigger concepts.

Blinkx, which last month quietly launched a beta of its desktop search application, is getting ready to take on the increasingly competitive Web search market. On Friday, it plans to formally launch the company and its new approach to search.

Blinkx, which installs its own search client and mini toolbars within Windows applications, distills large amounts of text—from Word documents, Web pages or e-mails—into concepts in order to retrieve search results, its founders told eWEEK.com.

Based in London and San Francisco, the company bases its search results on its own Web index, which stands at about 65 million pages, almost 40,000 news sources and thousands of Web logs. It also scours a users hard drive to find relevant e-mails and files, supporting more than 200 formats.

"Most search-engine technology is based on the keyword," company co-founder Suranga Chandratillake said. "Whats different with Blinkx is we take into account the entire text."

Chandratillake started the company with co-founder Kathy Rittweger. Chandratillakes background includes three years as the chief technology officer at enterprise software company Autonomy Corp., while Rittweger was one of the early employees of now-defunct Web personalization company Firefly.

Blinkx joins a growing array of new search companies taking on major players such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc., but it is one of the few to build its own Web index. Others such as Vivisimo Inc. and Groxis Inc.s Grokker have focused on new approaches for displaying and sorting through results from the major engines.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read an eWEEK Labs review of Vivisimos technology.

By also concentrating on the desktop, Blinkx also will be squaring off against the large search engines. Google reportedly is working on a broader desktop search tool, while Microsoft Corp.s MSN division and Ask Jeeves Inc. both recently bought small desktop search companies and are likely to integrate the new technology into their search offerings.

At its heart, Blinkx uses what it calls "self-learning" algorithms in order to figure out the context of what a user is reading and to initiate searches in the background.

Results are then available when users scroll over a toolbar that appears in the upper, right-hand corner of Windows applications such as Internet Explorer, Outlook and Microsoft Office applications. The toolbar displays six icons that represent results from the Web, news sites, blogs, video and audio sources, the local hard drive, and related products.

Users can initiate their own searches from the Blinkx application, with results displaying as a user types.

To co-founder Kathy Rittweger, Blinkxs approach changes the dynamics of Web and desktop search by allowing results and information to flow to users as they read and work.

"The whole idea behind Blinkx is to provide information in the most non-distracting way," she said.

Blinkx is available as a free download and requires Windows 2000 or XP as well as Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher. The business model for the 10-person company is to earn revenue from affiliate relationships and advertising.

Already Blinkx includes product search results in its toolbar that displays related Amazon.com books. The company plans to expand such product searches and consider search-based advertising, Rittweger said.

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