Google’s dominance in the search world means any newcomer is likely to get a lot of press and potentially be held up as a “Google killer” no matter how new and different its offering. The recent launch of Blekko‘s beta search engine (covered extensively, including here, here, and here) raised similar comparisons. But Blekko is very different from Google in how it asks you to search. At its heart, it wants you to slice your search results with slashes.
Blekko does natural language search but its power comes as you start to control the result set that your query will be set against. For example, you can force Blekko to return results in date order, rather than the default of relevancy, by ending your query with /date:
precedent ontario family law /date
Blekko has a long list of built-in slashtags that you can use right from the start. Some, like the /youtube or /twitter slashtags, work like the site: delimiter on Google, only returning results from those sites. Others, like /map or /weather will return information from that content type in response to an address
toronto, on /weather
You can also create your own slashtags. Anyone familiar with Rollyo or Google Custom Search will understand how this works. You give your slashtag a name – and because it is attached to the free account you create on Blekko, it can be the same tag name that someone else has used – and then assign sites for the search to focus on. Blekko uses editors to select sites for its own slashtags, so each individual user appears as “editor” for their own slashtags. A slashtag may be either private or public – you decide when you create the slashtag, and the decision is irreversible – and it can incorporate either Web sites to retrieve results from or other slashtags.
I created a simple slashtag to look at case law in US federal appellate courts:
eeoc aramco /davidpwhelan/us-fed-case-law
A public slashtag can be shared with others. If you edit and update your slashtag, others using it will get the benefit of the changes.
As I say, it’s similar to what Rollyo and Google Custom Search already offer. But these sorts of services required you to know how to create the custom search and then remember to use it. Blekko’s library of slashtags mean that you can search using someone else’s efforts, even getting suggestions for slashtags if there are possible matches. Blekko is already branching out a bit, with announcements of a partnership with the DuckDuckGo search engine today. Legal researchers will benefit from these narrowly focused search engines if they are customized to look at legal information, like feefiefoefirm.com, rather than consumer and entertainment sites.