January 19, 2013

FB Search and Systemic Distribution

I've been reading with great interest about Facebook's new search project - here are some thoughts on it and FB in general. Note I don't have access to the new product, so any FB search specific comments are based on reviews/ demos.

- Many innovations online have been built on a systemic distribution system that can deliver an audience without any brand marketing.

- google leads the way with its search omnipresence and the systemic distribution it provides (now known as SEO).

- FB had a window of systemic distribution through the news feed. Companies like Zynga were built on it. Those days are over. Users aren't enticed to try new products based on built-in viral features that force my friends to spam my news feed when they use a product.

- FB likes are important. By buying likes, I buy access to a user. Its akin to buying a subscription list. As long as they don't unlike me, i can reach them with a status update. Long term, this is probably a more effective form of spam than the social gmaes-spam model.

- FB search is a way to make likes even more important. "Show me San Fransico sushi restaurants my friends like" - think if Im a San Francisco sushi restaurant it makes sense to buy a few likes? Now a like brings me brand marketing access and FB SEO access.

Will this take over the world? Not right away. Search is a distribution game - you need to get right in front of the user to get them to remember to use your search product. Maybe they peel off the % of my searches when Im looking for friends recommendations - collectively, probably not an insignificant amount. Maybe this is the product they need to go do a deal with Firefox or Opera to get the default search box in those products (now THAT would shake the industry).

But, FB search is an interest product. But not systemic distribution level yet.

March 5, 2011

Antidote to Content Farms?


Do you buy generic medicine? Or generic soda? Or generic anything? I don't. You know why? I like brands. They make me feel good. They let me know what I'm getting before I get it.

And I like how brands distinguish themselves. Its usually with a snappy design. Or a color. Or a jingle. Or a slogan. Or combination of all three. I see those Golden Arches, I know exactly what I'm getting. Because brands don't surprise me (unless of course the brand is associated with surprises), I never walk away feeling unsatisfied.

You know where brands don't exist? Search result pages. Nope. Every result looks alike. Title (usually blue, red for blekko), snippet (black) and URL (usually green, gray for blekko). This is the same for the paid results as it is for the organic ones. Type in a medical query, and the results from ehow.com look exactly like the one from the Mayoclinic.

Actually I take that back. Ehow hires SEO experts to match titles and query terms better, so they actually look more appealing (something we call perceived relevance). Silly Mayo Clinic hires doctors, nurses and medical librarians instead.

A search results page has one brand, and one brand only, on it: the search engine's. If that brand doesn't elicit user trust, the search engine is in trouble. This is why we take the spam and content farm issue so seriously at blekko.

If brands lived on search result pages, you'd click on the ehow result for medical queries as often as you bought generic diet soda. But they don't.

February 11, 2011

Burning Spam

A lot of Blekko users and fans have stopped by to visit our Spam Clock. Some of you may have noticed that we’re nearing a very unfortunate landmark. According to the clock, this Friday at about 4 p.m. the one billionth piece of new Spam created this year will find its way on to the Internet. Ugh.

We think this is stunning. Just 42 days into this year and the spammers, scammers and content farms have already cranked out 1 billion pieces of internet pollution. 1 billion pieces of incremental trash to add to the pile we’ve been collecting for the past decade.

In pure Blekko fashion, we commemorate this somber event in the only way we know how: with oddity.

Rich constructed the first BurningSpam man comprised of the printed out version of the 1 billionth piece of spam produced this year. And then burned him. Of course we caught the whole thing of video.

So watch and enjoy this small victory as at least one piece of spam literally goes up in flames. Only a billion more to go....

Burning Spam from blekko on Vimeo.

January 9, 2011

The Spam Clock is Live

Most people see the web through a relatively small lens. They see the sites they regularly visit, the links in their Facebook and twitter streams, and the ones that show up for the searches they do. And that's about it.

When you work for a search engine, however, you get a different point of view. Because you are literally crawling and analyzing the entire internet constantly (well, most of it anyway), you get a unique top down view of what's out there. The good, the bad and the ugly. Unfortunately, the good seems to be getting crowded out by the bad and the ugly.

More specifically, we're seeing at blekko is a non-stop firehose of web spam. Millions of pages generated every day solely for the purpose of getting indexed by the major search engines and syphoning traffic from them. Of course the goal of this traffic is not to inform, but to monetize users through a variety of ad networks.

Unless you live this every day, its hard to communicate the size and breadth of this problem. In these instances, a graphic helpful. Thus, we created the spam clock. As you can see, based on our calculations we are showing spam growing at a rate of 1 million pages per hour.

Think about that 1 million pages an hour. Wikipedia is 3.5M articles. Every 3.5 hours a new volume of text the size of wikipedia is unleashed on the internet and unsuspecting users. Every 3.5 hours. 7 wikipedia size corpuses being created every day. Ugh.

Lest you think otherwise, the war on spam is far from over and the enemy is hardly backing down.

Rich's take here. Danny Sullivan's coverage is here.

December 15, 2010

Search With A Little Help From Your Friends

Very cool feature announced today on blekko: /likes. You're friends are curating the web every day when they go out and click the "like" button on any web site. But, for the most part, their hard work only shows up on your Facebook feed. Wouldn't it be nice if you could use that info in a more useful way - like, i don't know...search?

Now you can with our new feature: /likes. When you log into blekko via FB Connect, we now grab from their API all the sites you and your friends have liked. We automatically take that data and create a slashtag for you called /likes. Search just the sites your friends have blessed by adding /likes to any search query. Pretty cool, eh?

/likes is yet another way you can say goodbye to spam, content farms and, well, any site your friends don't tell you is cool. Seeing your friends names in your search results is an eyeopening experience. Completely changes how you view search results.

Rich's take is here. Friends make search better. Go check it out and let us know what you think!

November 23, 2010

Blekko Announces Its 1st Partner Deal: DuckDuckGo

blekko is my 3rd start-up. For each start-up I've done, there are always a few events that, looking back, make the highlight reel. Of course the launch is one. But so are things like: 1st round of funding closed, 1st employee hired, 1st press, 1st alpha user, etc. I would put 1st partner deal going live up there with each of those. That's why Im psyched to announce that as of today we have our 1st partnership live with duckduckgo.

Duckduckgo is a search engine run by Gabriel Weinberg. Gabriel is doing some great stuff over there, especially with the Zero-click info he is providing in addition to search results. We're happy to announce that as of today:

- blekko is powering search results for the following categories on duckduckgo: health, lyrics, autos, colleges, hotels, personal finance and recipes. Not coincidentally, those are the categories where we are auto-firing slashtags, so our results are spam free and from high quality sites.

- duckduckgo is powering zero-click info on blekko, on a site by site basis. To access this info on blekko, click on the info button on the second line of any blekko search result. Really great info in there.

We've got a lot more in the pipeline coming out soon, so make sure you stay tuned. But for today, we celebrate our first partner deal - woot!!

November 2, 2010

Blekko's Launch Rocked: 10 Thoughts

In case you hadn't read, blekko launched live to the public yesterday. Here are 10 reflections:

Rocket%20Launch%20%28slide%2021%29_jpg.jpg 1. The press still loves a good search engine launch. We got a ton of coverage. NYTimes, WSJ, AP, Reuters and pretty much everyone else.

2. Twitter rules. It really is the pulse of what's going on. Searching blekko on twitter (or on blekko) is the best way to get real time time feedback and gauging reaction.

3. Reaction has been overwhelmingly positive so far. Of course there are some haters out there, but whatever. You launch something new its easy for a few people to throw rocks at it. Lots more people seem to really like it. cool.

4. Hype is hard to manage. We have purposefully tried to UNDER-hype blekko. We've said we aren't a Google killer. Our publicly stated goal is to be the third search engine in a world of 2 search engines. Despite this, many people call us over hyped.

5. The little negative coverage we get comes in one of two buckets: (a) we're over hyped or (b) it's impossible to carve a slice of the search business (they wrap this argument in more link-bait-y headlines though). To the first, I can't imagine any start-up would turn down this kind of coverage for their site, so not sure why that is a negative (especially when it comes from marketing types!). The latter is something we obviously disagree with.

6. Note whats missing on #5: no one is saying the search engine sucks. People like everything we're doing. That's cool.

7. Nothing says product feedback like actual usage. We are already hearing great feedback from users and making changes. This thing is only going to get better.

8. The dust will settle soon. After launch, we will have a group of people who are using the site regularly. Maybe they really like our results, maybe they downloaded the toolbar, maybe they made us their home page, maybe they like a particular slashtag or maybe they like our data. All good reasons to come back. Point it, once the dust does settle we'll be focused on growth -but start with a good base. Next up: deals, marketing efforts, feature releases, etc. - the march up the hill begins.

9. BIG THANKS to everyone who gave blekko a try. Hopefully you like what we're doing and will keep coming back.

10. If you've made it this far, you deserve a free tshirt!! They're cool. Drop us a note with your address to shirt at blekko dot com with your address and we will send you one.

October 31, 2010

Blekko /Steelers Search Embed Lets Me Slash the Web From My Blog!

Couldn't be happier to announce that after 3 long years, we finally opened blekko up to the public. So far, we've gotten write-ups from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Mashable and about a gazillion twitterers, to name a few.

We have a ton of cool features, but one of my favorites is the ability to embed a slashtag search engine right on my blog. I've embedded my /steelers tag (can take the boy out of Pittsburgh, but not the Pittsburgh out of the boy). Check it out in the right hand column-------------------------->

Find your favorite slashtag (/conservative, /liberal, /science, /humor, etc.), embedthe code on the slashtag overview page and, voila, you got your very own vertical search engine on your site. Pretty cool, eh? :)

September 22, 2010

Bobblehead Mike Hard At Work

And, yes, a bit hard to see, but that is a blekko tshirt he's wearing...


September 21, 2010

Meet Slashtag Man! (and get a free blekko tshirt)

Rich has all the details on our new blekko imagery here - if you want a free tshirt featuring this caped spam fighting crusader, drop us a note to: shirt@blekko.com. First 100 folks get the shirt. Make sure you include your address and shirt size.

Watch out eHow, slashtag man is on the case!