[Paleopsych] Guardian: All eyes on Blinkx
checker at panix.com
Mon Jul 19 21:56:11 UTC 2004
All eyes on Blinkx
Victor Keegan spoke to the woman taking on Google
Thursday July 15, 2004
Less than a month ago, Kathy Rittweger went to the office of the
technology magazine Business 2.0 in San Francisco to demonstrate
Blinkx, a late entrant to the search engine market. The editor she was
meeting brought two other people as he didn't know much about the
She left the office at noon, saddened that it had not gone very well.
"I thought I did a lousy job. I've never really done this whole PR
thing." She retired round the corner to Starbucks with her public
relations adviser for a debriefing. He told her to be more provocative
in future, not so humble and more proud of what she had accomplished.
"He was also convinced we didn't stand a good chance".
But by the time she had got back to her hotel, there was an email from
one of the people at the meeting, Om Malik, whom she had never heard
of. He said he had "blogged" the item on his website at 12.40pm while
she was still commiserating over coffee.
Malik wrote that he had the same tingling sensation watching Blinkx
being demonstrated as he had had almost five years ago when two
fresh-faced boys called Larry and Sergey had stopped by the offices of
Forbes.com to demonstrate something called Google.
Malik's comments were soon picked up by other bloggers and Rittweger
started getting a wave of emails and calls, including some from
venture capitalists, a breed thought to be in hibernation after the
The blog was posted on a Friday, and by the Monday there were 5,000
links to it and people were discussing it all over the world. Since
then, there have been 130,000 direct downloads, and many more through
users swapping files. This week, the site - which is only launched
today - has been recording 6m links or hits a day solely from
You would be forgiven for thinking that Rittweger and her British
business partner, Suranga Chanratillake, who used to work for the UK
search engine company Autonomy, ought to be locked up for even
thinking of trying to take on the almighty Google, especially at a
time when it and the likes of Microsoft and Yahoo - not to mention
dozens of smaller companies - are teeing up for the next battle in the
search engine wars.
Blinkx has two selling points. First, it doesn't only search the
web but simultaneously scours news sites, emails, attachments and your
own hard disk. It does all this unobtrusively in the background until
you pass your cursor over icons at the top or bottom of the page, when
it reveals a digest of related sites as well as material from Word,
Excel or PDF files. If you are working in a word processing document,
it provides the same service.
It also searches blogs. This function has just been added because
Malik suggested it would be a good thing to do. "I didn't appreciate
the significance until he wrote the article and then I thought,
'Right, I get it'," she said disarmingly. Blinkx can also search
digital TV on the internet, which, in practice, means video output
from the BBC. Why? "Because the BBC posts its digital TV free on the
Both Google and Microsoft are working on unified engines that search
your desktop as well as the web, and some others already do it. But
Rittweger believes Blinkx is the only one that offers all these
facilities including video search now. So the company has a window of
opportunity in a market where consumers can switch allegiance with two
blinkx of an eyelid.
The second selling point is that, unlike Google, it uses artificial
intelligence to rate stories, not page rankings. "What it is trying to
say," she explains, "is that all words are not equal in a sentence...
Quite critically, if you are looking at a document and trying to
figure out what it means, Blinkx reads everything you are reading and
sorts out what are the key ideas."
Blinkx's planned business model involves getting advertising revenue
from contextual adverts, product channels and white labelling, but she
emphasises that the search is independent: it is mathematically based
and just looks at words and their context. She adds: "It is clean, but
users don't know that so we show our advertisements in a different
Her moment of truth came when doing a project on Japanese tourism a
few years ago and found that when she put a page into a search engine,
nothing happened because search was limited to 10 words. Later, she
met Suranga Chanratillake, who shared her ideas and had the
technological expertise to develop them.
Whether they succeed is an open question. It is a tough market to
crack because for many users, Google is as good as it gets - and, like
Yahoo and Microsoft, it has immense resources. But people are also
starting to realise that search engines are mining only a tiny
proportion of available knowledge. And loyalty is only as deep as the
click of a mouse.
More information about the paleopsych