Search engine Blinkx unveiled a new search tool Tuesday that it said will deliver search results to users automatically, eliminating the need to stop another activity to begin a query.
The search, known as Pico, is also being billed as the smallest search program available, taking up just 1MB of space. Blinkx said the tool would bring results to users “proactively and automatically.”
The plug-in creates a menu of channels on a user’s desktop, each correlating to a type of content, such as news, blogs, video, the Web, images, shopping and a “people” category that retrieves information from social networking sites such as MySpace.com.
The tool “reads” information that a user is working on in other programs and then conducts searches based on that context. Results can appear instantly when a user clicks on one of the channels.
“We turned the search paradigm on its head, and asked, ‘What if search could be brought to you?'” said Suranga Chandratillake, founder and chief technology officer at Blinkx. “While others, including Microsoft and Apple, have talked about the potential of implicit search before, Blinkx has once again pre-empted others by making it reality first.
“More than anything else,” he added, “Pico is about the possibility of searchless search.”
Pico is the latest attempt by Blinkx to gain attention for itself — and to win search traffic in a marketplace dominated by giants such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s MSN. In the past, it has focused mainly on its multi-media search engine, Blinkx.tv, which it says has video-search capabilities that are beyond those of larger rivals.
The new search tool does not try to meet those competitors head-on in the area of desktop search, an area where Blinkx was a pioneer but where Yahoo and Google have found much more traction. Users can add desktop search capabilities, but the stripped-down Pico is focused only on proactive contextual searches.
Pico also attempts to create connections among so-called unstructured data, something that Yahoo has attempted to do by embracing “tagging” of information, which requires users to manually describe the content on a Web page. Google’s approach appears to be based in part on its Google Base publishing program, which could help organize content by requiring users to categorize it as they make it available online.
Blinkx bills its approach as the “Latent Web” and said its technology enables connections between relevant information to be made automatically.
The tool could enable a user writing a letter about an issue to click onto the Pico tabs and find information from various Web categories already waiting there.
The innovation could be important for Blinkx, which is seen needing to build traffic and an audience base that it can begin to monetize in a significant way. That in turn might put it in a position to attract a strategic investor or venture financing that would enable it to raise its profile among Web users.
Ground to Make Up
Blinkx does not currently rank among the top 10 search engines in terms of traffic or visibility, according to SEO Consultants. That puts it behind so-called second-tier search sites such as Snap.com, Gigablast and Teoma.
That might change over time, however, as many see Blinkx’s focus on video paying off in the long run if it can maintain its technological edge, something that will be hard to do given that Google and others are investing billions to build better video search.
“The big hurdle for video search to overcome has been the dearth of content that people really want to find online,” Forrester analyst Charlene Li told the E-Commerce Times. “That’s starting to change rapidly.”
Major television networks have begun to put re-broadcasts of evening news shows and prime-time programs on the Web for second-chance viewing and the rise of video podcasts has given video search tools plenty of fodder to practice on. Video search will also play a role on the desktop, Li added, as the PC or a future version of it becomes the center of the digital home.
“It’s going to take a long time for video search to develop,” she said. In the meantime, Blinkx and AOL’s Singingfish will be the small players trying to carve out a niche among the giants such as Google and Yahoo.