A new search engine, Blekko, was launched on Monday, Nov. 1, in an attempt to take away market share from rivals Google and Bing. Philip Caulfield of the New York Daily News writes that Blekko differentiates itself by filtering out sites it considers spam, or useless “content farms.” If successful, it could become the preferred search engine for Internet researchers. However, it will be difficult to infiltrate the market dominance of Google and Bing, who together account for 90 percent of all Internet searches.
The Blekko search screen is pretty straight-forward. A large search window is centered in the screen and allows you to type. Like the older Google, the Blekko search window is intuitive, and as you begin to type, a drop down appears with a list of topics beginning with what you’ve typed. You can then either begin typing or select the topic from the list. Blekko gives you the option of installing a toolbar, presumably to make it your preferred search engine and integrating it into your web browser. Disliking most toolbars, I chose not to. You can also create an account in which Blekko would save configuration settings.
One unique feature of Blekko is its incorporation of what it calls “slashtags,” which allow you to search only from a user-defined list of sites. You or your friend first sets up the slashtag, and then it is available to use during searches, or you can use one that is already pre-defined. This ability may be enough to set Blekko apart from its competition among some online demographics. An example on Blekko is global warming /conservative, which would let you do a search on conservative sites for news about global warming. Whether this ability will result in further polarization of political discourse in America remains to be seen!
The slashtag feature is very nice, however I’m not sold on Blekko. The biggest drawback that I found is that its definition of spam places many sites out of reach of the user. Many great articles exist on sites like Associated Content that Blekko relegates to the domain of “content farm” and obscures or even prevents them from appearing. An article I wrote comparing NetGear versus Linksys wireless routers, which is in the ninth position on Google and in the sixth position on Bing, isn’t listed in Blekko from what I could tell. Looking at Blekko’s list of topspam, you can see some of the sites that it filters out. Some appear to be topic blogs that are targeted as spam for no other reason than they have advertisements in addition to what may be genuine topical content. This is reminiscent of the “Google smackdown” that Google imposed on bloggers who tried to compete for Google’s advertising revenue, with Google ripping away the competing sites’ page rank.
Whether Blekko can compete with the likes of Google and Bing is a tough call. Blekko arguably has some nice features. It does obviously censor content based on what it defines as spam, which I’d consider a significant drawback, and will turn some potential users off, and yet will likely appeal to others. In the end, in an online world that is often fickle, it may simply boil down to keystrokes: four different keys for Google and Bing, five for Blekko.
Blekko. (2010). About Blekko.
Blekko. (2010). TopSpam.
Caulfield, Philip. (November 1, 2010). Blekko, new search engine, takes aim at Google by providing spam-free search results. New York Daily News.