New Search Engine Blekko Is a Great Concept, But ...

Try Googling for something general like mortgages or health or cancer. What you want are credible sources. What you get is a bunch of SEO'd up websites that are just this side of spam. The intense competition to capture high-value keywords means that the good sites just can't keep up with the constant tweaking of the content farms.

Blekko, a new search engine, hit beta status today. It's goal, according to the Wall Street Journal, is to solve this problem by using human curators. Here's how the company put it:

As the number of Web pages reaches one trillion, "there is an acceleration of spam," said Rich Skrenta, Blekko's chief executive. "We're cleaning this up ... using large-scale human curation" that promotes "trusted" content.

Queries that Blekko identifies as being health-related, for example, are limited to 76 authoritative information sources. So searching "cure for cold," for example, generates links to sites such as MedicineNet.com, WebMD.com and MedlinePlus, a site affiliated to the National Institutes of Health. On Google, the top 10 search results include links to lesser-known sites such as essortment.com, manageyourlifenow.com and home-remedies-for-you.com.

In a way, this is a return to the web of yore, when big lists of site directories were nominally handpicked. It worked for a while. My own UCLA basketball page used to come up first on Yahoo in the mid-'90s -- a clear indication the site knew quality. But as the number of web pages proliferated, it became absolutely impossible to keep up. The humans lost and the bots won, etc. But now, even the bots are losing to scale. Blekko suggests that it's only a combined human and robot force that has a chance of maintaining a healthy information ecosystem.

So ... does it work? It's hard to tell in the early going. I'd want my grandmother searching this site for medical advice before Google. Take a hot-button topic like vaccination. Blekko serves up lots of scientific and medical information. Google gives you lots of pseudoscience and discredited conspiracy theories. I can't help but think that's a good thing.

But there's a problem: the site's design is, to me, unusable. All the little tags and colors on the page make me crosseyed.

It may just be that I'm so used to Google that any other site feels strange, but I think the problem might be embedded in the system. They are trying to do two things: provide search results and elicit human input. And that means the UI has to be more complicated than Google's.

blekko.jpg


Presented by

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Desegregated, Yet Unequal

A short documentary about the legacy of Boston busing

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

Social Media: The Video Game

What if the validation of your peers could "level up" your life?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Technology

Just In