TECH

Blekko Search Engine To Rely On The Human Touch

11/01/2010 07:26 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

UPDATE: Read our Q&A with Blekko CEO Rich Skrenta.
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There's a new search engine in town.

The newly-launched Blekko is hoping to harness the human touch in order to present more relevant search results that are spammer and content-farm free.

The company told Reuters that it sees this human-curation element as something Google is missing.

"Today is the first step in a process of building a volunteer army at Blekko that will eventually slash spam from search and deliver the most relevant results," said Blekko CEO Rich Skrenta, who described the search engine as "Wikipedia meets search," according to Search Engine Land. "As the number of URLs on the web increases from billions to trillions, it will take a layer of human oversight to separate the trusted content from the spam."

So how does it work? Blekko, which has branded itself as "slashtag search," relies on slashtags, which are "appended to search queries and limit search results to only the curated sets of sites." For example, if you're looking for information about the iPad, instead of querying "iPad," you could add the slashtag "AppleBlogs" (typing in "iPad/AppleBlogs") to return search results from a limited, curated set of sites. Without using the slashtag, the top five results for "iPad" returned by Blekko are from Apple.com, CrunchBase.com, Wikipedia, Engadget, and CNET. By comparison, if you do use the slashtag "AppleBlogs," the top five results are from TUAW.com, TheAppleBlog.com, MacRumors.com, TUAW.com, and MacNN.com. If you were to try the same search with Google, you'd see that the top results returned are from Apple.com, Wikipedia, CNET, and CrunchGear.com.

While Blekko's idea of marrying human curation to web search on a massive scale is an intriguing one, one of the biggest problems it is likely to encounter is persuading users to--in the words of its tagline--"slash the web." Most mainstream users will most likely not know what a slashtag is, much less why or how they should use it. And the current trend in search--as services like Google Instant and Google Goggles attest--seems to be how to enable users to type less, nor more, when they search.

Blekko has been in development since 2007 and has received $24 million in funding from all-star angel investors such as Marc Andreessen, Ron Conway, Mike Maples, and Jeff Clavier.

Do you think it's promising? Will you use it? Weigh in below.

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