Sorry, Blekko Is Doomed


A new search-engine called Blekko just launched. It’s the latest in a long line of companies to try to leapfrog Google by providing “better” search results.

Specifically, in Blekko’s case, the company is using human input into algorithmic results to screen out content from content farms like Demand Media.

For those who hate Demand Media content–a subset of those who even know they are consuming Demand Media content–this sounds like a fine idea. For those who occasionally find value in some Demand Media content, whether or not they know it’s Demand Media content, it doesn’t. 

But in any event, Blekko’s chances of succeeding using this strategy are tiny.  Here’s why:

1. For the most part, search isn’t broken.  Google search is generally excellent.  With a few queries, most people can find exactly what they’re looking for.

2. When search IS broken, the problem is usually not Demand Media content.  It’s because the question you’re asking generally isn’t well-suited to being answered by algorithmic search.

3. Normal people haven’t the faintest idea what “slashtags” are or why they would ever want to use them.  A Blekko proponent in our office says that people don’t have to know what slashtags are to use Blekko, but the fact that the company’s slogan is “slash the web” is a bad sign. It would be like Google talking about Boolean logic.  “Slashtags” may have some meaning and create excitement in a tiny corner of the world, but if Blekko has any broader ambitions, it should stop talking about them immediately.

Yes, search engines could do a much better job of telling you which restaurants you should eat at, which cameras you should buy, and many other things–but, again, the reason search is weak on those queries generally isn’t a Demand Media problem.  It’s an imperfect information and subjectivity problem (which is where social media comes in.)

And, more broadly, the reason all next-generation search engines have pretty much failed thus far (including Bing, which is burning $2 billion a year trying to leapfrog Google) is that the current generation of search engines–namely Google–is pretty darn good.

YES, Google needs to keep innovating. YES, Google often goes to sleep at the switch. But NO, a moderate improvement in some search results (arguably) will not vault a new search engine to prominence.

So if Blekko ends up building a big business, it will probably be because it pivoted into something else.

See Also: 10 Startup Ideas That Always Fail

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