Blekko Has Usability Issues as it Seeks to Bite Google
It may never be fair to cry "Dead Man Walkin'" for a brand new Web service, but unfortunately that's the conclusion I've come to after playing with new curated search service Blekko this morning.
Blekko is geared to cut out the clutter of Web search on Google, Bing and Yahoo.
You know, the kind of clutter where you search for something and get 40,000 results, most of which aren't really useful.
Blekko gets points for that, but to do this users need to create slashtags, or little vertical search categories for favorite Websites and topics. Users can follow other users slashtags and message them within Blekko if they choose.
Once these vertical searches are established, or users find existing slashtags, Blekko becomes a blast to use. It's getting to that point that sucks and it will be work, not fun, for the bulk of users who try it.
I set up a favorite list slashtag, adding some of my favorite Websites. Then I searched within them and Blekko really worked well.
But no matter how good Blekko was at cutting out the crud, it was still work time that I could be spending on something else.
Blekko is an exemplar of Web service creation, but this produces it's own hairy mess: who wants to spend time curating search? I don't.
Google is great because I go there, type in a search, and often find what I need within the search bar from Google Suggest, or even from Google Instant when I'm not searching from my iGoogle homepage. It's simple and it works.
Blekko's barrier to usefulness is too high. Sure, you can skip the slashtags and do good ole-fashioned general purpose Web search, and Blekko offers suggested queries, but what would be the point?
That's what Google has covered for 66 percent of U.S. users. Those who don't Google, use Yahoo or Bing it.
My guess is the die-hard blogging corps in Silicon Valley will praise this approach, tired of tired Google searches for the last decade.
They like to write about services invested in by trendy VCs because it endears them to those guys for access on other issues.
But this simply won't catch on with anyone by industry insiders who thumb their nose at traditional services that just work even if they are cluttered.
That's what search startups have become: homes for niche users fed up with a solution that bores them with too many nonsequitur results, even if it is efficient.
Look at Cuil (dead), Powerset (bought for semantic technology) and Wowd (who?). Case closed.