With ROCKZi, Blekko Dips Its Toes Into Social Waters (And I Don’t Get It)
Search engines seem to be inexorably drawn to social platforms. There’s Google+ and there was Google Buzz. Yahoo has Flickr and Yahoo Answers, and had Yahoo Buzz and Yahoo Meme (among others). Microsoft/Bing has So.cl.
And now Blekko has a social content platform of its own: ROCKZi, where the tagline is “Read. Vote. Rock.”
It’s a social content curation site where users can find, submit, vote and/or comment on news stories. The content is divided into a current list of 33 categories, from sports to politics to tech and beyond — and that number will grow to the hundreds within a couple weeks, according to today’s announcement. Voting involves clicking a button that says “this rockz.” Users accrue points for activity — one for a vote, five for a story submission.
To put it in familiar terms, it functions something like Digg and it looks a bit like Pinterest. (Those 33 categories are even called “boards” — here’s the SportZ board below.)
The obvious question: Why is Blekko launching a social site like ROCKZi?
To be frank, I have no idea.
The company’s news release hits on a lot of the same buzzwords and themes that many social sites before ROCKZi have talked about:
- It’s “a fun, social environment for users to identify top, timely content.”
- It “allows users to engage in the content they care about most.”
- It has the potential to “revolutionize the way we discover good content on the increasingly cluttered Web.”
But hundreds of millions of people would say that Facebook and Twitter (and LinkedIn, and Pinterest, etc.) already do those things quite well. And the decline of Digg and most of its competitors suggests that the social voting model is a thing of the past.
One potential hook is ROCKZi’s promise that users will eventually be able to create their own custom news boards; think Pinterest, but saving news articles rather than photos.
There’s also a connection to Blekko’s search roots: The company says it’ll use the social signals created by ROCKZi’s userbase to help identify quality content for its search results. But there’s not a lot of interest in optimizing for Blekko, so that angle isn’t likely to attract users.
Blekko has done some very smart and admirable things in search — particularly serving the SEO community with ongoing improvements to its SEO tools and information. It recently scored a $30 million investment from Yandex and has seen a significant rise in traffic this year. Clearly, things are going in the right direction.
And all of that search-related momentum is why I find Blekko’s decision to launch a social site like ROCKZi very odd.