There's been some well-deserved buzz lately about the new upstart search engine Blekko, which I've been playing around with a bit. Most of the attention has been focused
on the concept of "slashtags" that allow very quick and dirty targeted search, or added parameters in a format that builds off of user suggested groupings of sites. It's a neat feature, but so far I have to admit I haven't found in that useful in my testing. What has struck me as significantly more interesting about Blekko is that it -- unlike just about every other search engine out there -- lets you dig in on the data the site used
to determine the results rankings. This is the type of stuff that is a closely guarded secret at Google, in large part because revealing the data might make it easier to game.
And while Blekko founder/CEO Rich Skrenta (who, I should disclose, I've known for many, many years) has been clear from the very beginning that the goal is not to take down Google
, but rather to carve out a decent, but highly profitable, niche in the search engine space, I do find this rather interesting. By opening up the details in a way that lets users dig in and find out how a site's ranking is determined, Blekko is doing something that Google can't easily copy
. I always find this quite fascinating. We end up talking quite a bit on this site about the idea that some insist upon, that if you come up with something disruptive, big companies will just come along and copy the idea, killing off the small company. However, as we've detailed over and over again, this happens a lot less than you would think, in part because "copying" the innovation often will seriously upset an existing line of business or an existing way of doing things. That's what's so disruptive about disruptive innovation.
I have no idea if Blekko really will turn out to be disruptive in any way. But I find it quite fascinating that a big part of its attack on Google's marketshare is to enable a feature that would totally turn Google upside down in terms of how secretive it is about its algorithm and ranking. Google is often seen as a leader in the "open" technology world, but as we've pointed out before
, while the company works hard to encourage others to be open, it can be incredibly closed itself. So it seems only fitting that its potential achilles' heel may be in the part of its business that it has kept quite closed.