Blekko tries to filter the search on the web

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Start-ups and big companies have tried to take on Google by creating a better search engine. Their failure did not prevent brave new entrants.

The last is Blekko, a search engine that will open to the public on Monday.

Rich Skrenta, co-founder and CEO of Blekko, says that since the launch of Google, the web has been invaded by unnecessary sites filled with links and keywords that put them at the top of Google’s search results but no ‘offer little relevant information. Blekko aims to display search results only on useful and trustworthy sites.

“The goal is to clean up web search and eliminate all spam,” Skrenta said.

Blekko’s search engine crawls three billion web pages that it finds interesting, but it only shows the best results on a given topic. It calls its edited lists of website slashtags. The engine also tries to weed out web pages created by content farms like Demand Media that determine popular web search topics, and then hire low-paid people to write articles on those topics for sites like eHow.com. .

It also relies on a successful web search category – vertical search engines that deliver results on specific topics. Many companies assume that Google won the whole web search competition, so they focused on thematic search. Microsoft’s Bing offers dedicated travel and entertainment search pages, and Yelp is a popular choice for finding local businesses.

People who search for a topic in one of the seven categories that Blekko considers polluted with spam-like search results (health, revenue, cars, hotels, song lyrics, personal finance, and colleges) automatically see the edited results. .

Users can also search for results on a site (“iPad / Amazon”, for example, will search for iPads on Amazon.com), searches refined by type (“June / people” shows people named June), or a search by topic. “Climate change / conservative” shows results from right-wing sites, and “Obama / humor” shows humor sites that mention the president. Blekko has created hundreds of these slashtags, and users can create their own and review others.

Mr. Skrenta, who has been quietly building Blekko since 2007, has spent his career trying to improve web search by relying on web users to sift through pages.

He started the Open Directory Project, a human-edited web directory that rivaled Yahoo in the 1990s and was acquired by Netscape in 1998. He ran three search properties at AOL and helped find Topix, the man-made news site that was acquired in 2005 by Gannett, the Tribune Company and Knight-Ridder.

In some cases, Blekko’s best results are different from Google’s and more useful. Search for “pregnancy tips,” for example, and only one of the top 10 results, cdc.gov, is the same on each site. Blekko’s best results showed well-known government sites, nonprofit group, and parenting sites, while Google included OfficialDatingResource.com.

“Google has a hard time saying if two articles on the same topic are written by Demand Media, which paid it 50 cents, or if a doctor wrote it,” said Tim Connors, founder of PivotNorth Capital and investor in Blekko. “Humans are pretty good at it. “

Yet for many other queries the results are quite similar. Blekko’s challenge is that most people are happy with search results from Google, which comScore says makes up two-thirds of search queries in the United States.

“Most people don’t say, ‘I’m just overwhelmed with content farms,” said Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search engine and an industry expert.

Google also allows users to easily search for individual websites or set up a custom search for a group of websites, although this is a more complicated process.

Blekko is also targeting Google’s opacity regarding its search results ranking algorithm. Blekko offers data such as the number of inbound links to a site, where they came from and when Blekko last searched for a site’s content.

Blekko has raised $ 24 million in venture capital from leading investors like Marc Andreessen, Ron Conway and US Venture Partners. It plans to sell Google-like search ads associated with keywords and slashtags.

Some start-ups that have embarked on research have been integrated into large companies, like Powerset, which Microsoft bought in 2008. Others, like Cuil, a search engine launched by former Google engineers in 2008, were failures. Blekko’s slashtags could be prone to spam since anyone can edit them, but Blekko says this will prevent this with a Wikipedia style editor and font by users.

“They have an interesting twist,” Sullivan said of Blekko. “It might take off with a small but loyal following, but it won’t be a Google killer.”


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