Blekko officially opened its public beta today at http://blekko.com, launching a new search engine that brings large-scale human curation to web search.
Blekko focuses on delivering results from high quality sites and leaving behind spammers, aggregators and content farms.
The magic behind the Blekko technology is a simple tool called a slashtag. Slashtags are curated sets of web sites organized around a particular topic. These cover topics as broad as health, money, and autos, and as narrow as gluten-free, neurotechnology, and the Grateful Dead. Slashtags are appended to search queries and limit search results to only the curated sets of sites.
With the launch of the public beta, Blekko is also automatically applying slashtags to improve results in seven initial search categories: health, colleges, autos, personal finance, lyrics, recipes and hotels. For example, searching "cure for headaches" on Blekko will provide results only from the top quality sites in the health category.
For searches not determined to be within a slashtag category, Blekko uses its proprietary ranking algorithms to deliver relevant results from its 3 billion page web crawl. As users create and refine more slashtags, Blekko plans to expand "auto-slashing" to improve results in more categories.
"Today is the first step in a process of building a volunteer army at Blekko that will eventually slash spam from search and deliver the most relevant results," said Rich Skrenta, CEO of Blekko. "As the number of URLs on the web increases from billions to trillions, it will take a layer of human oversight to separate the trusted content from the spam."
Also new to the public beta is a community platform that allows users to work together as they create slashtags. This includes group editing of slashtags and communication tools that facilitate collaboration. As the number of quality slashtags grows, so too will Blekko?s auto-slashing of queries.
Skrenta emphasized that Blekko editors will organize categories of content, not specifically edit every search on the site. He said the company?s initial goal would be to identify the 50 best sites on the Web for the top 100,000 search categories.
Blekko was initially available on a very limited basis in private beta that began in July, 2010. More than 8,000 users from around the world joined the beta. During the beta period, users created more than 3,000 slashtags.
Blekko has raised $24 million since its founding in 2007 from U.S. Venture Partners and CMEA Capital, as well as leading angel investors including Ron Conway, Mike Maples, Jeff Clavier, and Marc Andreessen.
The Blekko team has a history of organizing information and content on the Web. Its core team created the pioneering Open Directory Project, which attracted more than 80,000 volunteer editors who organized content on the Web into more than 1 million categories. The Open Directory was acquired by Netscape and the Blekko team worked on that Internet pioneer?s search technology through the company?s acquisition by AOL.
Blekko has 22 employees, including former Google and Yahoo! Search engineers.