Blekko launched a new search engine the beginning of November 2010 after being in private beta for months—available to those who liked Blekko on Facebook, followed it on Twitter, or sent it a tweet. Although Blekko remains in beta, but finally a public beta, it’s a great improvement over the initial teaser landing page that greeted people for years—a simple search box that said, “coming soon.”
Blekko is the brainchild of co-founders Rich Skrenta and Mike Markson. Back in their career history is founding the news site Topix (now majority owned by Gannett, McClatchy, and Tribune, news media powerhouses) and starting the Open Directory Project (now owned by AOL’s Netscape and essentially comatose). You can see some of the philosophies of these prior endeavors in Blekko, along with technological innovations. For one thing, Blekko has published a web search bill of rights that asserts the importance of transparency and human intervention.
The company was founded in 2006. It built its own database and proprietary search engine. Given the reputations of its founders, Blekko apparently had little difficulty raising the money necessary to fund a startup, to the tune of some $25 million.
Searching with Slashtags
Blekko’s slogan, “Slash the Web,” refers to its unique method of search refinement. You can merely enter search terms into Blekko’s search box, but that doesn't reveal the full power of Blekko as a search engine. Instead, couple your search terms with what Blekko calls “slashtags”—predetermined filters that limit your search to a particular set of websites. These can be those created by Blekko or user-generated. They can be topic specific, convey an opinion, eliminate spam, act as sorting mechanisms, or directly search another site.
Blekko’s built-in slashtags include /people (limits to pages associated with individuals), /liberal, /conservative, /news, /politics, and many more. To sort results by date, combing search terms with the slashtag /date or date range with/dr=yyyy:yyyy (where yyyy represents the year). Third party slashtags include /amazon, /bing, /google, /twitter, and/youtube. Specific tags for /weather, /map, and /define are self explanatory.
Some of the Blekko-created slashtags work better than others. I’ve had very good luck with /blogs, /techblogs, and /forums, which effectively searches blog and forum sites, but results from /humor have been atrocious. Not only were they generally not funny, they were frequently in questionable taste. Some of Blekko’s slashtags are odd, such as the 88 websites identified as /lego. You can view all Blekko’s tags by entering /tags in the search box.
As for user created slashtags, these differ considerably, as you would expect from any crowdsourced information source. Some are clearly from people experimenting—perhaps not very seriously—with the Blekko concept of slashtags, while others appear to have had a great deal of thought put into them. Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan, for example, created /seosites with 30 sites. Aaron Tay, a librarian at the National Library of Singapore, built the slashtag /academiclibrary that includes more than 2,000 global academic library URLs. I’m hoping information professionals take advantage of the power of slashtags to create custom site searches for library catalogs used by consortia, such as Evergreen.
Blekko encourages you to search for slashtags by topics, by built-ins, and by users. There is even a slashtag for this: /findslashtags. Although the implementation as slashtags is new, the philosophical underpinnings exist in Google custom search and Rollyo. I find Blekko’s version more transparent, particularly with its revelation of search engine optimization factors and rankings.
Slashing through Results
Blekko search results are numbered, which strikes me as slightly retro in appearance. In addition to the traditional headline, snippet, and source information, Blekko provides additional information. Click tag to add the site to one of your slashtags; seo to view inbound links, crawl statistics, site pages, comparisons with other sites (you chose the site for the comparison), and duplicate content; links to go directly to inbound linked pages; cache to view the page as it was when Blekko crawled it; ip to reveal the IP address; and spam to declare the page as spam.
United posts best on-time record of DIA's big 3 airlines for 12th month - Denver Business Journal
tag | seo links cache ip | spam
Nor does its total include Continental Airlines, with which it recently merged. Flights by Denver- and Milwaukee-hubbed Frontier (a unit of Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: RJET) arrived at the Denver airport 90.7 percent of the time in September, down slightly from 91.5 percent a year earlier. And flights by Dallas-based Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) arrived at DIA 89.2 percent of the time in September, up a bit from 88.5 percent in September 2009, DOT said. DOT considers a flight arriving within 15 minutes of its scheduled arrival to be on time.
bizjournals.com/.../2010/11/09/dia-on-time.html 20h ago
You can sort your results by relevance or by date. My biggest problem with Blekko searches is the relevancy of results. Some searches turn up remarkably relevant results, while others are far shy of the mark. Until Blekko can reliably and constantly return relevant results, even the slashtag concept won’t be enough to sustain it in the highly competitive search engine world.
Is Blekko a Google killer? Not according to Skrenta and Markson. In an early blog post, Skrenta said, “I think you’re as likely to see a Google-killer as you are to find Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster.” He has reiterated this often, particularly in the past 2 weeks. Regardless, at its November launch, much of the press coverage described Blekko as an attempt to be a Google killer. Some predicted its failure as a Google killer within a day of its launch.
If it’s not a Google killer, what is it? I think Blekko is an excellent alternative to Google—not a replacement for Google, but a search engine that provides different answers and varying perspectives. It allows for vertical, opinion, and customized searches. It encourages information sharing. It may take some time for information professionals to fully capitalize on its technology, but I think librarians will be in the forefront of those finding creative uses for slashtag searching. Given that in only 2 weeks of being accessible in public beta, Blekko has grown to 1 million queries a day, with 30,000 user-created slashtags, it’s clear that the potential for Blekko to become a major search engine power is strong.