As Google has so roundly demonstrated, good tools to search the web can be extremely lucrative. But Google, while infallible in many respects, has failed to nail the technology to search video. Instead, enterprise search company Autonomy has achieved it and recently spun off a unit called Blinkx to bring this technology to the masses.
On Blinkx.com users can scour over 14m hours of video for that one long-lost clip. The company also licenses its technology to power the video search on other sites, such as Ask.com and Lycos.
The Blinkx search tool is far superior to anything else in the market, searching as it does through moving images for facial recognition, place names or words on the screen, and listening to the accompanying audio track for key words, rather than just searching by tags attached to videos. The latter method, favoured by YouTube, has a number of failings, not least the fact that people will tag their video with the words Paris Hilton to increase the number of hits they get.
As internet bandwidth improves, content providers are increasingly using the web to distribute their programmes. Even the BBC has got in on the act with its iPlayer.
Google has not provided an efficient service to sift through all of this content. Rather it hopes to become a content provider through YouTube, which it bought last year for $1.6bn (Â£790m).
This leaves a niche - or rather gaping lacuna - in the market, which Blinkx aims to fill. It makes money through licences and advertising revenue-sharing deals. It also launched a video advertising platform recently to place relevant ads next to online video content.
Blinkx has a perpetual licence with Autonomy, so any improvements the latter makes to its technology will be passed down. This is exclusive to Blinkx for five years, but subsequently, Autonomy will be able to license its technology to any number of consumer-facing companies.
At present Blinkx has chosen to bring just the video search element of Autonomy’s technology to consumers, but its parent has a vast portfolio of tools to search emails, voicemails and other so-called unstructured data, which it could later bring to the masses.
It is unusual for a company to have better search technology than Google and it seems highly likely that the search giant will buy Blinkx sooner or later.
If, however, Blinkx remains independent, it is streets ahead of the competition in a market that looks set to explode this year.
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