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3/31/2006
11:20 AM
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Blinkx Changes Desktop Search

Startup touts its free 1-Mbyte Pico search toolbar as the world's smallest search engine

Less is more. That's what Blinkx would have you believe. The 2-year-old Internet search startup, with one foot in San Francisco and the other in London, bills its free 1-Mbyte Pico desktop search toolbar as the world's smallest search engine.

Chandratillake thinks small.

Chandratillake thinks small.

Photo by Gabriela Hasbun
Blinkx is brave to trumpet its lack of stature in the face of big competitors such as America Online, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo in the David-stands-up-to-Goliath mold. But the truth is more complicated. Suranga Chandratillake, co-founder and CTO of Blinkx, used to work at Autonomy, and much of Blinkx's technology is licensed from that enterprise search company. Its Internet domains, blinkx.com and blinkx.tv, are administered by Autonomy. And the Blinkx Wikipedia entry shows edits originating from IP addresses registered to Autonomy.

That's not to say that the two companies are one and the same. Chandratillake describes Blinkx as an OEM customer of Autonomy's technology, as well as a developer of its own technology.

"Autonomy does have an option to invest in us if they want," he says, but adds that he can't discuss the company's ownership and option structure because it might affect Blinkx's ability to do deals with other companies. "We've had a number of conversations with some very large organizations about potential acquisition."

To be sure, little Blinkx has big ambitions. "While there's been a lot of focus and attention on search, it has driven surprisingly little innovation the past few years," Chandratillake says. "Most companies are just doing what they already do in bigger and better ways. But they aren't really thinking about all the other ways that search needs to grow and what else it can achieve as a technology and as a service."

Blinkx's innovations include adapting Autonomy's implicit query technology. Implicit queries parse active documents to generate search queries without explicit user input such as search keywords. As you work, Pico reads your active screen, infers the meaning of what you're looking at, and then retrieves relevant information from across the Web. Blinkx also is focusing on blinkx.tv, its popular video search engine, which, unlike most video search engines, performs speech-to-text conversion to index spoken words, rather than relying on transcripts. Many organizations have found they can use the service through its support of RSS to track mentions of their products on TV and online, Chandratillake says.

The upshot: Blinkx will thrive as long as it connects users with relevant information. Its close relationship with Autonomy won't hurt, either.

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