Does Blekko Stand A Chance?

Blekko is a new search engine that offers an alternative to the Search Behemoths. It hopes to succeed by being different: by making search personal, and even social. Does David stand a chance taking on several Goliaths at once?

 

Googlesque in its simplicity

 

You can tell from the get-go that they’re modelling themselves on Google, from the clean ‘n’ simple “just the search” home page to the name — sounding like it was poked at, blindfold, in The Little Book of Google Rivals’ Names. That’s not a bad thing in itself I guess, but Blekko needs to stand out from the crowd if it wants to be noticed, and the only way it can do that with Search is by doing it differently.

Blekko is basing it’s differentness on two things: customisation (choosing which parts of the web you want to search, eliminating spam from results), and social (personalising, crowd-sourcing, sharing). It does both of these things through a new concept called slashtags.

What is a slashtag? It’s a collection of websites grouped together. For example I could (once I’ve signed up for an account and logged in, updated my profile etc. etc.) create the slashtag /uknews, and add to it sites like Sky News, Daily Telegraph, The BBC, The Sun. Whenever I visit Blekko from then on I can add “/uknews” to the end of any search and Blekko will search all my UK news sites — and only my UK news sites. If nothing else it’s a good way to search several related websites at once.

Let’s have another example. Let’s say I want to buy a gift for a Doctor Who fan. I could search manually around Amazon uk, Firebox, Play.com, entering the same search phrase as I go and manage the results across multiple tabs. Or I could go to Google and just type in “Doctor Who”, then filter out all the non-shopping results. Or I could login to Blekko and use my /ukshopping slashtag. Instantly I get useful results about Who-related gifts, from sites where I’m already a customer, without all the fanboy blogs, wikipedia entries, and official BBC sites. I can even share the results of the search with others.

So, I can use the hundreds of built-in slashtags Blekko provides AND create my own. Cool. But let’s now extend this paradigm into the world of Social Media. I can also use everyone else’s personal slashtags, and request to co-edit them. Earlier today I guessed at a slashtag by typing in “/reference”. Blekko didn’t have one by that name and neither did I, but several other users did and Blekko invited me to execute my search using someone else’s “/reference” list. Blekko even has a Twitter-like, facebook status-like social element that it calls Chatter, where you can say something about a slashtag you just created, talk to Blekko — sending them feedback and getting help — and follow other users’ slashtags so that they’re added to your profile page.

So now the Big Question: is it going to catch on? Well, I hope so but I fear not. Blekko has some really neat ideas that will appeal to Internet Power Users but the sheer geekiness of the slashtag meme could end up being its own downfall. It’s a bit too hard to get into to appeal to the mass market. I’m still just scratching the surface of what is possible and will continue using it as my default search engine until I get bored, they go out of business, or they reach a tipping point and go mainstream, at which point I’ll be off searching for some other underdog to champion.

Why not give Blekko a try and see what you think? It’s nice to support The Little Guy, and this one deserves a fair chance at taking hold.

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About Chris Neal

Personal Technology Consultant. Tailored services and advice for people who want more from their technology.
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