Blekko: A Search Engine For Idiots

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Blekko.com is the latest search engine to challenge Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG). Venture capitalists and technology inventors look at the company’s $20 billion in revenue and $200 billion market cap and find the search market irresistible.

The principles of the company are unlike those of Google, Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Bing, and Yahoo!’s (NASDAQ: YHOO) product. These include:

1. Search shall be open,2. Search results shall involve people, 3. Ranking data shall not be kept secret, 4. Web data shall be readily available, 5. There is no one-size-fits-all for search,6.  Advanced search shall be accessible,7.  Search engine tools shall be open all, 8. Search & community go hand-in-hand, 9. Spam does not belong in search results, and 10. Privacy of searchers shall not be violated.

Blekko shares many of the same rules as open source initiatives. They are based, ironically, on privacy and accessibility.

The unique part of the project is the addition of the ability of humans to intervene in the search process. For instance, users can list their favorite sites. Blekko offers fewer search results for each query than Google. This should cut the number of  spam-related results.

But, the human touch in search makes all results incomplete. Several search engines much less successful than Google offer similar features. Some are old. These include Ask.com and About.com. A more recent product is Mahalo. None have been successful.

Google holds its place at the top of the search world for two reasons. The first is that people have developed the habit of using it and habits are hard to break. The second is that Google works well for most consumers. It brings back results that are relatively complete. Some information is less relevant than others, but the relevancy level is high, even if it sometimes includes spam. Most internet users can sort out the modest amount of spam on their own and move to the important results quickly.

The search business has made too many people fabulously rich which includes the venture capitalists who provided funds for Google and Yahoo! and other products long gone. Profits draw money and like any sector, the last people in usually fail.

Douglas A. McIntyre

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