Can A ‘Spamless’ Search Engine Take Off?

After nearly a year of delay, high-profile search startup Blekko has finally gone live today. Blekko’s main differentiating feature is a function called a “slashtag,” which lets searchers narrow down what they want to find. For instance, if a user wants to find articles about “global warming” on conservative sites, he or she would type in “global warming/conservative.”

The sites included under the slashtags are suggested by users (or Blekko staff) so they are supposed to filter out pages from low quality sites, such as Demand Media’s eHow. “At Blekko, we hate spam,” CEO Rich Skrenta says in an introductory video.

In its profile, the NYT paraphrases Skrenta as saying that the “web has been overrun by unhelpful sites full of links and keywords that push them to the top of Google’s search results but offer little relevant information.”

It’s far from clear, however, whether many consumers think that’s actually true or whether it’s enough of an issue for them to abandon Google (NSDQ: GOOG). It’s also worth noting that while it’s easy to dismiss or mock the content produced by “content farms,” because it isn’t put together by “professionals,” it’s often extremely useful and easy to read.

History has not been kind to search startups in recent years, many of which have either shut down or switched strategies. That’s a trend we profiled in spring 2009 when WolframAlpha launched. Last time we checked in, however, that search startup was still trudging along.