Blekko Nov. 1 became the latest startup to challenge Google with a search engine that lets its users customize and refine searches to can some of the spam.
Machine-generated search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing take users’ queries and search for these digital needles of information in an increasingly expanding haystack of billions of Web pages.
Blekko tries a crowd-sourced approach to search results to help users better pinpoint answers. Any user may test the Blekko beta with a feature called slashtags, which group the search queries people define on Blekko within the search box.
Slashtags, which users may try here, search only the sites users want, cutting cut out spam. The tools are not unlike the hashtag feature (#) that lets Twitter users group tweets around a particular topic, such as #world series.
Users can create their own slashtags, allowing them to set up directories of information in a few vertical areas so that they can come back to them later and let other people see them.
“Use friends, experts, community or your own slashtags to slash in what you want and slash out what you don’t,” Blekko explained on its Website. Users may also search from these boxes and jump to other verticals.
Search Engine Land has the most detailed run-through of Blekko here.
Blekko CEO Rich Skrenta offered an example of a logical Blekko use on his personal blog Nov. 1.
Skrenta was looking for a 2 percent cash-back credit card. A search for [cash back credit card] produced spammed results on Google and Bing, so he made the blekko /money tag [cash back credit card /money] with the top 100 personal finance bloggers and received great results.
Noting that search requires a lot of relevance data to help algorithms grok the billions of Web pages worldwide, Skrenta said that he wanted to use the crowd-sourced approach to make the “search engine better” instead of following Google and Bing’s lead of hiring hundreds of contractors to refine relevance data.
Blekko Has Challenges in Curated Search
“We have a vision of curated algorithmic search that brings quality back to the Web at scale, and involves the public to get there,” Skrenta wrote Nov. 1 on his personal blog.
The company is starting modestly with results in health, recipes, song lyrics, hotels, automobiles, colleges and personal finance. Skrenta suggested users try searching Blekko for “cure for headaches,” “Obama/date,” global warming/conservative,” and many more.
Blekko, which has raised $24 million in funding from angel investors including Marc Andreessen and Ron Conway, is making a bid where each year it seems one to two startups try and fail.
Google wields 66 percent market share in the United States. With Bing now powering search for Yahoo, the two command roughly 28 percent of the search market. Still, others continue to try to disrupt the current search market with no success.
In 2008, Cuil challenged Google and quickly fizzled, shutting down in September. Wowd launched in late 2009, wisely offering more customized search without the claims of being a Google killer.
Blekko is also joining an increasingly crowded market for curated Websites created in the mold of Wikipedia. Quora, for example, comprises a series of questions and answer sessions. Facebook Questions is another new service that fits in this mold.
Google also tried curated search with SearchWiki in 2008, but later ceased this effort and replaced it with starred search.
Google is, understandably, unconcerned by Blekko.
“We welcome competition that helps deliver useful information and gives people new choices,” a Google spokesperson told eWEEK.
“Having great competitors is a huge benefit to us and everyone in the search space — it makes us all work harder, and at the end of the day everyone benefits from that.”