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Summary:

Almost five years ago, I met with two fresh-faced boys called Larry and Sergey. They had just launched this little search engine thing called Google, and had stopped by at the offices of Forbes.com. Since then, they have of course become stars, and their search engine […]

Almost five years ago, I met with two fresh-faced boys called Larry and Sergey. They had just launched this little search engine thing called Google, and had stopped by at the offices of Forbes.com. Since then, they have of course become stars, and their search engine has replaced “god” in the popular lexicon. Even in the early days, I had been blown away by the sheer simplicity of their search engine, which hid massive complexity behind the veneer of a clean almost empty home page. I had a tingling sensation, when I saw Google and thought to myself – ‘well this shit is going to be huge.’ I said so in my article, How Google Is That!

I got the same tingling sensation today, when I met with a little known search engine, no scratch that, search agent company called BlinkX. BlinkX co-founder Kathy Rittweger stopped by at our offices and demoed her little product. It is a actually a very simple piece of software which you download and install on your desktop. There is a web browser version as well!

While Google is all about keyword search, BlinkX is all about contextual search. Let me explain. Say you are reading through a big Microsoft Word document, on I don’t know European Union policies on data transfer, the BlinkX bar at the top of the page, will retrieve relevant news item links with brief summaries (only visible when a mouse moves over the link) and other important links. At the bottom of the results a tiny “ad” which is in a color different from the results, so that you always know it is a paid advertisement. The software basically reads the entire document and builds a contextual link database on the fly.

It can do the same for a web page you are reading. For instance, if you were reading my piece on Cisco buying Procket, you would get links to all relevant news articles on the web, and links to Cisco and Procket homepages. However, the fun begins when you open the client software (which sits in the system tray.) It has a simple entry window. Lets say you put Napa and Sonoma County. It searches and brings back the web for news, Amazon for books, websites of relevance, e-commerce links and but more importantly any documents, emails etc related to that subject on your desktop.

They are also planning to add a special results section for weblogs – where relevant information from millions of weblogs will be sifted and displayed. The software’s broadband version also has something called a visualizer tool, which basically builds and displays 3D links and puts a visual context to the information. Very very cool! “We want the search engine technology to be completely invisible,” Kathy says. (She used to work at Firefly!) I used it for a few minutes, and already it makes sense to me. I am sure by end of the day tomorrow I will be completely addicted.

Combining desktop and Internet search in an easy to use manner is being described as the next big thing. Well I saw the future, today and it is BlinkX. They are already ahead of what Microsoft or Ask Jeeves or Google or anyone else has right now. Now lets talk about the company. It has ten employees, has $2 million in angel funding, and has a business plan, which is based on ads-and-search. How very 1999! I think that is the only thing I found wrong with the whole presentation – lack of business model!

  1. I hear you Steve and Otis and even despite my little experience in professional researching, your points seem very valid for a professional researcher.

    I however think that _Blinkx_ are trying to reach the mass market. Users like me and my mom that have realised the power of Google and are utilising it well. We are now ready for the next step in information delivery and if Blinkx can package that nicely I think they have a success on their hands.

    With time, the tool may become more advanced and maybe even useful to hard core information miners. But as pointed out, limited resource such as a small start up normally has, limits you from doing everything for everybody in version 0.9.

    Now I just need to find the time to actually try out Blinkx and see if it is any useful.

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  2. Hey, Om…I’m doing great. Working at OnPR, a public relations firm with three tech specialty areas: wireless, enterprise software and consumer tech… I’ve also just had a baby girl! Let’s catch up soon…

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  3. Dammit Om, I’m supposed to be working, not playing with this very cool new toy!! Sure there are issues, but this is VERY nice. I can see using this constantly writing research reports and doing research online. It’s almost enough to get me to switch back to IE as my main browser…

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  4. rick – my sentiments exactly. this is pretty addictive and cannot wait for the mac version to show up. by the way it works equally well with all other browsers – at least on firefox it does.

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  5. Om – it works on Firefox?? Oooh, even cooler. I don’t get the little Blinkx controls that I see in IE, but I’ll talk to them about that. Thanks for the tip!

    MUST… QUIT… PLAYING…..

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  6. Om, curious to know why you think they have no model … after all, Google et. al. are making a killing on search.

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  7. need … mac … support…..

    Looks very cool.

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  8. i think with google you can deliver tons of those damn text ads on the side of search results. the way their client works there is only one place to sell an ad. i am not particularly fond of the ad-model. unless you have scale, which google has, it is difficult to make a business. trust me i have tried it many times, and it does not work. so that is why. what i would like to see – ‘blinkXbox’ for contextual document search inside large corporations as a sideline. basically they need to build an API where you could interface, corporate database, web, news sources such as lexis nexis and your hard drive into one sweet simple interface application.

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  9. they told me that the MAC version is currently under development but because they are a smallish company, resources are always an issue. i understand and am willing to wait for them. as i said, they need an API which would lets say let guys who make Watson or Sherlock (apple??) plug into this. sweet and easy baby

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  10. Looks a little (lot?) like Dashboard … or even further back, The Rememberance Agent. I’m glad to see this stuff is finally happening in a mainstream sort of way. The Rememberance Agent was cool, but I had to run emacs (ick!) to use it!

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