Blinkx Blinkx!

38 Comments

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!

38 Comments

GigaOM » Blinkx, finally serves its purpose

[…] It was three years ago – June 17, 2004, I first met with Blinkx, a toddler of a start-up, showing off a tiny little downloadable software that added context to search – be it on your desktop or on the web. To say the least, I was suitably impressed. […]

rickl

In this discussion I’ve seen some useful references to Groxis and other search tools, but no-one seems to have mentioned DevonAgent. From my experience, this goes way beyond Groxis and all the other tools I’ve tried. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Devon Technologies people (who also make DevonThink) use LSI.

jen larson

This is good, but one thing I want with any search engine is an edited selection of links. One needs ways to classify and cut out the junk.

Steevie

Gordon, I’m an info pro working in academia and have been using blinkx for 3 weeks now and have found it invaluable, especially the linking. I use it alongside Google and find the 2 very complimentary.

A few tips: they continually improve it, so keep upgrading. They just added a visualization facility which is great for power users like us, you can get to it by clicking on a button to the right of the query box in the client version. Also you can highlight whole paragraphs of text to trigger suggestions – this is incredibly valuable.

At last, something for powers users and info pros that is free, useful and that works. I’m supporting these guys because they are supporting the people that really drive the information economy – US!!!!!!!

Sye

been playing with the 3d visual query interface (accessible on v3.119 by clicking on the viz button) and discovered a few things id like to share: if you roll over one of the coloured spheres u get a summary of the web content and u can also get suggestions from that content by clicking a a suggest button underneath – u then get another lot of angles etc. etc.

its like the mindmap idea that i heard about from MIT years ago, but never heard about it again

can anyone tell me what the colours on the spheres mean though – cant figure it out.

Chizzy

think that the colors point to web or current news content – cant see that HD content is included, would be kinda nice. as a info pro, can see me using this to print out to have as a research resource. would like to see some encyclopedia content or really deep content to – even better 4 me if they added library content – it’s all there and free.

Gordon J Sheppard

Reading a lot of the comments here about Blinx, especially from the professional researchers, one would think that Blinx has no future at all. But I see it as a very useful tool for the average user, and the ‘novice’ in this amazing technology. The professional can well afford to buy the best research engine. But the average user relies on Google and the free services that are available today. The professionals writing here are merely arrogant pompous snobbish freaks that criticise everything and everything that is not specifically designed for their ‘esteemed’ use. I am not using BLINX yet because I have some reservations. I am concerned that in some way it may upset present software and services already installed. Such as Google. Using BLINX can I still elect to use Google? But eventually I shall be using BLINX. I am confident of that. Because it sounds like a bloody good idea!!! For the novice and the amateur in this technology one of the worst things about it is that it is mostly designed for the ‘expert’. BLINX sounds to me, LIKE IT HAS BEEN SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED FOR ME.

gjs

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