Google's recent efforts to curb spam may have been spurred on by an upstart whose raison d'etre is providing a happy, spam-free search experience.
Blekko launched in November as the latest erstwhile challenger to Google's search hegemony. It' not so much that Blekko is trying to beat Google -- even Microsoft Bing will acknowledge that as an unlikely proposition for itself -- but that Blekko is trying to stamp out spam better than the search giant.
While Google and Bing accept users' queries and search for information using algorithms, Blekko uses algorithms, too, but tries a crowd-sourced approach to search results to help users better pinpoint answers.
Users create slashtags, which group the search queries people define on Blekko within the search box, searching only the sites users want to cut out unwanted content.
While startups such as Cuil, Wowd and others have tried to differentiate from Google by providing additional features and functionality to improve search, Blekko tries to cut the fat many people see on Google.
The company launched in January a "spam clock" to count up spam creation for the whole year. One month later, the company targeted content farms by banning the top 20 spam sites from bits index, based on its users' click/spam on results. This included ehow.com, one of Demand Media's top revenue-generating content farms.
In its latest front assault on spam, Blekko launched AdSpam, a new AdSpam algorithm designed to recognize pages which are spam and eliminate them before they ever appear in search results. This tool blacklisted 1.1 million Web sites from its search engine.
Blekko's spam-fighting efforts, and complaints from pundits about the declining quality of search, seemed to motivate Google. On Jan. 21, Google Principal Engineer Matt Cutts acknowledged Google's spam issues and vowed to focus on them.
To wit, Google Feb. 14 launched the Personal Blocklist Chrome extension to let users click the "block url" button to block a site.
Ten days later, Google triggered an algorithm change that denigrated content farms and some other unfortunate Websites from Google.com. Finally, Google earlier this month launched a feature to let Google.com searchers hide Websites they don't like from their search results.
That's not to say that Google is copying, or matching Blekko. They are two different search engines, operating at different capacities. Google has 1 billion-plus searchers. Blekko receives only 1 million queries a day.