Desktop search player Blinkx unveiled the latest version of its contextual search product today, adding features that allow a user to initiate a search by dropping a file into a folder.
The feature, called Smart Folders, creates folders that automatically updates their contents as new information becomes available based on the ideas contained in the content of the files inside. Each Smart Folder contains content from multiple sources, including Web sites and Web-based news, along with local documents, contacts and emails on an individual's hard drive.
"The amount of information consumers have to deal with is growing exponentially, and new data formats are being added all the time," said Suranga Chandratillake, Blinkx co-founder and CTO. "At the center of all this data is a human being trying to figure out where everything goes, where to look, what to read, what to find, and how to find what they need."
Smart Folders uses Blinkx's implicit query (IQ) functionality, gathering contextual information from an existing file to determine what a user may be looking for. IQ automatically delivers relevant information, without a user having to search for it, he said.
Smart Folders automatically suggest information, based on context -- not keywords -- within a document, Chandratillake said. Smart Folders can be created implicitly -- by dropping a document into a folder, or explicitly -- by typing in a keyword or phrase. In either case, the Smart Folder will automatically be populated with relevant local and Web-based documents.
Smart Folders can be configured to include only certain file or document types, or information from specified locations or users. Filtering options are based on the document's content or any metadata. An alert can be set to notify the user when a new piece of information arrives in the folder.
Another feature in the latest version is "Stuff I've Seen" (SIS), a contextual historical record of viewed files. Blinkx 2.0 also adds linking with all major peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, enabling implicit query of shared multimedia files.
"The real value of Blinkx is that it is the first and only resource for people to index, link and organize such a comprehensive array of information. Instead of discrete data silos for audio, video, P2P, Web sites, email and local documents, Blinkx wraps it all up in a nice package and actually delivers it to the user," Chandratillake said.
Blinkx's revenue model is not yet clearly defined, though possibilities mentioned by company execs in the past include sponsored search results, display ads within the application, a bid-for-placement keyword advertising model, or a revenue-sharing arrangement for branded versions with e-commerce site search capabilities.
For now, the focus is on building the tool and building its user base, currently over 1 million. With so many bigger players entering the market, there's also the possibility one may find Blinkx's technology attractive enough to acquire.
"They are definitely a small player, compared to the big sharks that are in the water. Conventional wisdom would say they will quickly get taken out. But the thing is -- the software is unique in its functionality," said Gary Stein, analyst at JupiterResearch. "The fact that they have a unique feature that seems promising -- meaning end users will want it -- gives them a good platform and reason to think they won't just be run over."
Blinkx debuted in early July, just before Microsoft's MSN division showed off its desktop search efforts at an analyst's day at company headquarters. Ask Jeeves acquired desktop search company Tukaroo in June. Both MSN and Ask Jeeves are expected to have desktop search products out before year's end.
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Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.
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