Blekko execs talk search engine strategy

Blekko's new search engine has so far gotten over US$ 20 million in investments. Blekko co-founder Rich Skrenta and Marketing VP Mark Markson exchanged email with IDGNOW! Brazil about their plans and strategies and no, it's not another Google Killer. Rather, it plans to filter the 50 most relevant websites for each one of 100,000 categories.

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Blekko's new search engine has so far gotten over US$ 20 million in investments. Blekko co-founder Rich Skrenta and Marketing VP Mark Markson exchanged email with IDGNOW! Brazil about their plans and strategies -- and no, it's not another Google Killer. Rather, it plans to filter the 50 most relevant websites for each one of 100,000 categories.

IDG: How do you define the "relevance" at Blekko?

Relevance is returning on-topic results that closely pertain to the user's query from the best sources available. The magic behind the Blekko technology is a simple tool called a slashtag. Slashtags are curated sets of web sites organized around a particular topic. These cover topics as broad as health, money, and autos, and as narrow as gluten-free, neurotechnology, and the Grateful Dead. Slashtags are appended to search queries and limit search results to only the curated sets of sites.

IDG: How do you think Blekko slash tags are different from main search channels like Google news, shopping, blogs etc.?

We've created hundreds of slashtags at blekko, with everything from /accounting to /zen. But we also let our users create their own slashtags. During our beta we had over 3,000 user slashtags created. One user create a /glutenfree slashtag, to search for gluten-free recipes. Another user created a /colleges slashtag, which is a beautiful spam-free college search engine. By letting the public extend blekko's slashtags, we'll be able to cover hundreds of thousands of verticals, not just a few.

IDG: Will the engine be translated to other languages?

We're focused on English at the moment. We would like to crawl, index and serve across other languages but don't have immediate plans to internationalize the site.

IDG: Do you aim to index content from sites (like formspring) which have so far been overlooked by other search engines?

Our crawler tends to go into highly ranked sites more deeply than poorly ranked sites. We have a 3 billion page crawl, and so we need to choose the best content to include. This starts at crawl time - should we crawl this url or that url? There are a whole set of heuristics which drive what crawl budget an individual site gets.

IDG: Do you think Blekko is going to be able to change the concept of the deep, uncrawled web?

The web keeps getting deeper and deeper - the challenge is how to return the good stuff and not sink! This is why we believe human curation needs to be brought back to search. Only by curating the best content in every vertical can the most relevant results be returned.

IDG: Will you be adding other services to the domain, such as email servers?

No.

IDG: How does Blekko intend to make money, what is your business model?

At the moment we're focused on getting the site launched and giving users a good experience. To the extent that we develop and audience, we'll monetize that through search advertising.

IDG: What statistics do you have on Blekko usage by countries, queries and visitors' loyalty?

Our beta population is approximately 8,000 users. Out of this group we are seeing a weekly revisit rate of 11.5 percent. We have users doing searches on blekko 24/7. The fact that such a high fraction of people have come back and are still searching, even though they joined the beta 2 or 3 months ago has been very encouraging for us.

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