Can Upstarts like Blekko Upend Google?

June 16, 2012

MIT’s Technology Review supplies more cheerleading for Google alternatives in “As Google Tinkers with Search, Upstarts Gain Ground.” The piece discusses the rise of alternative Web engines Blekko and DuckDuckGo, both of which have grown markedly in recent months. Reporter Tom Simonite suspects the boom is a response to recent changes at Google. The launch of Search, plus Your World is one such modification. News that the company will correlate activity across all Googley sites to improve the aim of its ad targeting system is another. The article informs us:

“At about the same time as these controversial changes were implemented, usage of two search startup companies, Blekko and DuckDuckGo, started to climb rapidly, and the two haven’t looked back since.

“The two sites still command only a tiny percentage of online searches, but their recent growth suggests they didn’t receive millions from venture capitalists in vain. Both companies make a point of emphasizing their relatively simple design and a commitment to protecting users’ privacy, values some people claim Google has abandoned with its social efforts.”

Privacy is why I use DuckDuckGo whenever I can, though that engine has its limitations; it crawls the Web very little, relying on data from Yahoo, Wikipedia, and Wolfram Alpha. For many searches, Blekko would seem to be the better choice, since it performs more like a younger Google. (For details on how that crawler works, see this blog post by blekko CTO Greg Lindahl.)

However, our fearless leader Stephen Arnold ran a query on topix.net which uses Blekko, then tried to get current news. He found that the system does not work reliably, providing neither appropriate scaling nor relevance. It would seem that Blekko still has some work to do.

Cynthia Murrell, June 16, 2012

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