Blekko, the 'crowdsourced' search engine launches in beta

ComScore's most recent qSearch Web search market share analysis gave Google 66% of the core search business, with the closest competitor, Yahoo trailing by 50%.

Of the more than 16 billion explicit core searches conducted in September, Google handled 10.6 billion of them. Yahoo sites handled 2.7 billion, Microsoft sites took care of 1.8 billion, Ask Network fielded 593 million, and AOL sites took 362 million.

The business is so soundly dominated by Google that the biggest search companies have to fight for the table scraps.

So when a startup company debuts a new Web search engine, it's an instantly captivating story because of the tremendous odds against breaking through.

Today, a startup called Blekko is taking the challenge, and trying to break into the core web search business with its new beta search engine that crowdsources relevance data.

In other words, Blekko.com lets the users decide what search results are the most relevant to keywords.

"We realized we could make web tools that let users sign up and help make the search engine better. If we opened up the process, we could not only get orders of magnitude more people involved than we could ever hope to employ, we could also create an open, accountable process around the search engine relevance data," Blekko founder Rich Skrenta said today.

So Blekko has taken the ubiquitous organizational tool, the slash/stroke, and turned it into a device for specializing searches.

If you want to search for a topic only from certain sources, like tech news sites, you'd enter your search terms and add /tech, and the results will only come from sites okayed by Blekko users. Blekko calls these search modifiers "slashtags."

The idea is that Blekko editors will only select sites that provide content valid to that particular topic, systematically eliminating junk results.

Slashtags can also be used to search within sites (similar to Google's "site:" basic search command,) or to search a site-specific information, like the search ranking, inbound links, IP address, crawl statistics, and more.

Since Blekko takes a Wikipedia-style approach to editing, its main strength and critical failure are the same: the users. While the system can provide highly tailored and accurate search results, it can just as easily be exploited if it lacks dilligent monitoring.

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