A Report on Blinkx.com: A video search engine

Susan Lee

Abstract

Blinkx.com is the world’s largest search engine for multimedia (video and audio) content from a variety of websites including well-known ones like YouTube, Google TV, and CNN news, and smaller websites like Newslook and Go Viral. Blinkx.com crawls the web when you enter a search term, bringing back content that it thinks matches your search query. It utilizes well-researched technology and promotes itself as the go-to place for multimedia content but how effective is the website?

Report

Based out of San Francisco and the UK, Blinkx.com is called “the world’s largest and most advanced video search engine” (Blinkx, 2011a). People can log onto the website and enter search words into the search box. The website will pull up relevant video from the Internet from categories that range from entertainment to cars to video games and technology. Founded in 2004 and launched in 2005 by Suranga Chandratillake,

Blinkx.com offers a wider reaching and more comprehensive alternative to sites like YouTube. The search engine features over 35 million hours of searchable video and audio from over 720 media outlets included network and cable broadcasting networks like CNN and PBS, and private video libraries. In 2005, the website launched Smartfeed, an RSS web feed for video content (Blinkx, 2011a). In 2006, Microsoft began to use Blinkx technology to power video searches on MSN, Google TV and live.com. Lycos, AOL, and Real Player are three other sites that use Blinkx as well. In 2007, they launched AdHoc, an advertising platform that allows advertisers to purchase space on their website to run ads alongside searchable content. In 2008, they launched Blinkx Remote with full-length TV shows. The next year, the website became one of Nielson’s top 10 video sites along with Yahoo, YouTube and Hulu (Blinkx, 2011b). This past summer, Blinkx partnered with Newslook, a video news service “that curates and contextualizes news videos… from prominent publishers such as the GlobalPost, Xinhua News Agency and UNTV (PR Newswire Inc., 2011c).

Blinkx.com is a pioneer of video searches online, utilizing technology developed at Cambridge University over a span of 12 years. Blinkx.com uses “a unique combination of patented conceptual search, speech recognition and video analysis software to efficiently, automatically and accurately find and qualify online video” (Blinkx, 2011a). Blinkx.com users can not only search for video content, they can also create playlists for themselves and their website or blog, or social network page. Users can perform contextual searches, basic or advanced keyword searches, full search index search, video or audio (full or preview clips) only, by category or channel, and use Boolean logic. Users can upload their own content as well (Blinkx, 2011b).

Blinkx.com is revolutionary in its search capacity by fully understanding its video content. They do this by listening to the audio via “speech-to-text technology” to index the content, looking at the images using advanced video analytics, and reading other information embedded in the video by using media-analysis plug-ins. They also automatically suggest related content or queries for further searching. Blinkx.com proclaims that their video content is more easily searchable “much deeper degree than the weak, manually-created, metadata-based approaches to video search of the past” (Blinkx, 2011a). They advertise themselves as “the world’s largest and most advanced video search engine, is your one-stop shop for video trailers, reviews, cast interviews, behind the scenes and extra footage from this summer’s biggest cinema stars” (PR Newswire Inc., 2011a).

The search process is fairly easy to use. There is an automatic safe search function to filter out adult, uncensored content. Users can turn it off after agreeing to a disclaimer though it isn’t recommended. There is a search bar on the main page, in the upper right corner. If you are looking for content, which you can sort by relevance or date, on a celebrity or TV show, that may be the easiest way although you can easily return too many hits that are not sorted in any particular order. A search on “The Big Bang Theory” returns 36,000 hits, with featured content of cast interviews from YouTube, Hulu, MSNBC and ForaTV rather than clips from the TV show itself.

The top link does not really have anything to do with the show; it is a tutorial on a video game with the show title in its misleading heading. Looking at the precision rate, 13 of the first 20 results are relevant, meaning it has a 65% rate. If you type in “Big Bang Theory TV Show,” you draw 224,000 hits; much of the results contain clips of the cast making public appearances or doing interviews again. If you browse by category – entertainment, you can browse content but there isn’t a real way to search for content. If you click on a video though, it brings up related videos on a topic or subject as well as popular videos.

A search on the American Library Association brings up 85,000 hits, none of them relevant and the top results are from 2007. Sorting by date brings up even more non-relevant results. Using advanced search brings up 332 results; the majority of them are more useful than earlier results. The recall rate is 85%. A general search on Reader’s Advisory brings back 90 videos; an advanced search brings back 32 videos. A larger portion of results, especially the first few pages, are more relevant than earlier searches. A search using “San Jose State University Library” brought back 3 results, one from Blip TV, one from YouTube, and the last one from Google TV. Two were more relevant in that they were directly related to the library sciences school; the 3rd is a presentation in the library facility from another school. An advanced search on the San Diego Public Library brings back 23 videos. Thirteen of the first 20 videos are relevant; the recall rate is 65%.

The more focused the search, the easier the user will be able to find what they want on this non-text search engine. If you use the advanced search features and Boolean logic, you will find better and more relevant results. It seems to have the same issues that YouTube and other websites with unfiltered and user-submitted content can have – unrelated and misleading content appear in the results. In fact, it doesn’t filter out YouTube’s faux results like it should. Most of the searches rely heavily on YouTube, bringing back the majority of the results from that website, which seemingly brings down the recall rates.

Stop words and stemming don’t seem to play a role in the search engine algorithms. Utilizing either manually garners the same results. Blinkx likes to push itself as a media phenomenon and the place to go for entertainment. A recent PR Newswire press release proclaims Blinkx as the place to go for Halloween costume tips, stating “whether you’re wondering how to apply your best “bewitching” makeup to put a spell on your costume competition or trying to prepare a ghostly gathering for your little ghouls and boys, blinkx has you covered” (PR Newswire Inc., 2011b). Yet more focused and non-pop culture geared searches generally have better recall rates than entertainment based ones.

Blinkx.com is a user-friendly website and very visual. Through partnerships with other media venues and companies, they have continually added a large variety of video content to their search engine outside of YouTube (though that site comes up more frequently). A ranking or rating system for video content could be employed to help weed out non-relevant results. The speech-to-text technology can be misleading. The words “American Library Association” can appear in a video but not necessarily in that exact order. A user can upload content with that title that doesn’t have anything to do with the American Library Association itself. The advanced search functions are pretty basic and doesn’t offer any tips for searching, or explanation of Boolean logic to boost search capabilities. While the site is useful, it isn’t perfect and has some flaws. It is more browser friendly than search query friendly if you are not looking for anything too specific.

References

Blinkx. (2011a). About Blinkx.com. Retrieved from http://www.blinkx.com/about

Blinkx. (2011b). News. Retrieved from http://www.blinkx.com/news

PR Newswire Inc.,. (2011a). No Tricks, Just Treats as blinkx Shows You “How To” This Halloween.

PR, Newswire Inc.,. (2011b). Your screening room for summer cinema blockbusters: Blinkx.

PR, Newswire inc., (2011c). Blinkx partners with newslook to offer professionally curated news content from around the globe.

Rubenking, N. (2005). Find info in a blinkx. PC Magazine, 24(2), 46

 

 Blinkx PowerPoint Presentation

Blinkx

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