Web Exclusives: More

July 4, 2001:
Bookmarks as guideposts
Blink.com seeks sites related to your interests

by Rob MacKay '89

As the frenetic pace on the information superhighway continues to speed up, David Siegel '83 (right) has developed a way for users to keep their eyes focused on the road and peeled for new facts. His www.blink.com helps its members organize their preferred bookmarks and searches the Internet for new information they might want or require.

"This was sort of an invention of necessity," says Siegel, an electrical engineering and computer science major who built an autonomous robot from scratch for his senior thesis. "I'm an avid Web guy, and I noticed that no matter who you were, your bookmarks were always scattered. So I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to have a site that could organize all of a person's bookmarks and serve as a programmable search engine at the same time?'"

Founded in the summer of 1999, Blink's free service allows members to organize bookmarks and contact information in a private, password-secured account that is accessible from any computer. (There is wireless access, too, so Blink can be reached from any spot on the planet.)

Then, a related bookmark finder drives for the user while he or she coasts down the highway, automatically locating new sites related to the existing ones in the Blink folder. "Basically, you can go to sleep, and wake up with the answers to your questions," says Siegel.

In addition, Blink allows users to share bookmarks, either privately, with a select group of friends or business partners, or with the entire Blink community. Some members advertise their bookmark collection as a kind of social lure on the Web site's homepage.

"The added capabilities mean that, for example, businesspeople working in groups can share bookmarks, making collaborations easier," says Siegel, who earned a Ph.D. in computer science from M.I.T's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. "Users can also annotate or color code their bookmarks. The organizing options are basically endless."

There are also some gimmicky aspects of the Blink business. Members get points for finding new sites, for instance. These points can add up to prizes. Also, users can get paid for driving traffic to their sites. "We've carved a unique niche. In most cases, a Web site is a final destination. For example, if you surf to cnn.com, you probably want to stay there and read the news," says Siegel. "But ours is just the beginning. People go to us to go to other sites."

Siegel estimates that Blink has 1.4 million members living in almost every country in the world. As such, the business manages more than 100,000,000 bookmarks. In June 2000 the Manhattan-based enterprise launched a Japanese subsidiary which features a specially designed site for the wireless Web service.

The company seems to be growing with each blink of Siegel's eye. Is this what he started out to do: "Sometimes I wonder if all the headaches and hassles of starting a company were worth it," he says. "My friends have told me that it doesn't matter what the outcome is, what counts is that you were part of the first wave of net innovations. Well, I guess that's true, but I certainly wouldn't want to repeat that sentiment to our investors."

Rob MacKay, is an editor at Timesnewsweekly, a weekly newspaper in Queens, New York. He can be reached at robertazo@hotmail.com.