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!