Last night, a friend of mine popped round and declared that he had “given up” Google. Not only is he avoiding Google like the plague, he has also stopped using Amazon and Facebook in light of the corporation tax scandal involving these companies (he told me he never had coffee from Starbucks in the first place, but if he did that would be gone too). I thought back over the weekend and realised that in the space of 48 hours, I had sipped on a Starbucks Vanilla Latte, ordered around 70% of my Christmas presents from Amazon, stalked various non-friends from school days on Facebook and Googled to my heart’s content.
“Blekko, that’s what it’s all about now” he said. “Blekko? Blekko? What in the blazes is Blekko?” I thought to myself, wracking my brains. I nodded along politely as he told me about the wonders of this search engine and then after he left I promptly, and ironically, Googled Blekko.
“Don’t like it, don’t want to use it” was my initial thought. But nevertheless, I typed in a few search queries to see what came up. The search engine results page was incredibly refreshing to scroll through; 10 clear results free from spam.
Understanding the Blekko Philosophy
The whole ethos behind Blekko is that it’s a search engine for those who value privacy over specificity. With a smaller crawl of 3 billion pages (this may sound huge, but not compared to Google’s 3 trillion crawl!) Blekko strives to keep their results pages free from web-spam, content farms and malware. Blekko are firm believers in transparency and put together their web search bill of rights which include points such as “search and community go hand in hand” and “search engine tools shall be open to all”.
Not the most appealing sounding of tools, the slashtags are very interesting. I had a quick read up of what they are and how to use them, then gave them a go. Slashtags help the user to cut out information they know they do not want to appear. They are categorised into topical and utility slashtags, utility slashtags being aspects such as only showing results from blogs so that essentially, you direct the search engine to show you what you really want to see.
Topical slashtags are created by human editors; an example of a topical slashtag would be /health (as health would be the topic), which when typed into the search engine along with your query (e.g. How to ease a stomach ache) will search though around 200 website pages that have been selected by Blekko’s human librarian team to ensure they have only high quality, accurate content. To simplify, typing the following into Blekko would result in relevant, high quality results; How to ease a stomach ache /health.
Humans Vs. Computers
The Exact Match Domain, Penguin and Panda algorithm updates are pushing down spammy and illegitimate websites, but they are not eradicating them altogether and low quality continues to rank. Blekko’s human assisted rankings help to ensure that quite simply, the best sites with the best content are rewarded with the best rankings.
What Does this Mean for the Future?
Whilst Blekko has shown very impressive growth throughout the year (traffic quadrupled in the space of 4 months at the start of the year in the U.S), Google is still dominating the market share. However, Google’s UK market share dropped to below 90% in November 2012, which suggests that there is a potential for change further ahead. Smaller search engines built for more searches specific to industry or topic could be on track for a larger user base in 2013. As infuriated users turn their backs on online giants due to their decisions and behaviour both online and off, the underdogs are waiting in the wings with a service to rival the main players. So it’s worth keeping an eye on them in 2013.