blinkx bases its video searches not just on metadata, like most search engines, but also on speech recognition, face recognition, and other video analysis "to literally watch and listen to the video" before humans get involved.
The company's technology powers Ask, Lycos, Microsoft and other search engines, but its own site was originally meant to be a demonstration rather than a destination. But blinkx doubled down on its own site today, which indexes approximately 32 million hours of video, with a redesign and new features for turning a patchwork of entertaining or informative videos into a seamless, "lean back" experience. Because sometimes, you don't know what you're looking for until you see it.
Still, the site's core feature is the ability to search multiple video sites, as opposed to just YouTube.
"In the last 12 months, blinkx has grown a lot," said Suranga Chandratillake via phone. "I think as more and more people start to realize that there's more video than just YouTube, they begin to look for places where they can search everything, not just YouTube." He admits that many of the videos on smaller sites can also be found on YouTube. But as television networks and niche entities launch their own video sites (Hulu, whatever the big four record labels are planning, and so on), YouTube isn't as encyclopedic as it used to be.
Two new features added on Thursday enable a "lean back" experience that one would normally associate with the television:
* The "Inform me" button contains a patchwork of the most recent and viewed news clips from around the web, and stitches them into a nice flow. It's as if YouTube and the rest were mashed into a single show that's akin to what you'd see on a 24-hour news network.
* The "Entertain me" button, as you might guess, does the same for viral videos getting the most attention on various websites.
("Give me my own channel" is essentially a search box that generates a playlist of videos relating to your search term.)
"We have a [20 percent] portion of our user base who get to the site and who don't really seem to know what to search for," said Chandratillake. "[They think] 'I don't know what I'm looking for, so I don't know what to type into the search box.'"
The new buttons solve that problem by compiling the most watched, shared, commented and tagged videos from across the web.
"You'll get four or five geopolitical stories, a couple of sports stories, maybe an entertainment story, a finance story," added Chandratillake. "It's sort of like sitting in front of your television and being able to click on CNN."
He likened the "Inform me" channel to a Google News for video that prioritizes content that's getting sudden coverage on a large number of sites, while "Entertain me" is a mix of MTV-style programming and viral, comedic videos.
Among other things, blinkx's video analysis lets you to skip between scenes, or find spots in the video in which a face appears. And so far, the company has indexed a couple hundred celebrity faces, so you can find them even if their names aren't listed in the video's metadata. They're planning to add more faces to the system going forward.
Another key feature is the deep tagging. Click on any tag with a speaker symbol next to it, and you're transported exactly to the parts of the videos where those words are said.
blinkx has partnerships with some sites that allow it to display their videos natively, in which case extra features like scene skipping, face detection; others display in a framed version of the external sites; in those cases, you don't get the same blinkx features.
The next steps, after the web, are the living room and the cellphone. Chandratillake said he's in talks with various set-top box manufacturers about getting embedded there. As for an iPhone app, he wouldn't say, but implied that some sort of mobile app is also in the works.