Blinkx has improved its web and PC search software's Smart Folders by turning them into an online content distribution tool and allowing users to share them, the company announced this week.

The Smart Folders functionality, introduced last November, automatically populates topic folders in users' PCs with documents the Blinkx tool collects from users' hard drives and from the internet.

For example, a user who creates a Smart Folder devoted to a specific sports team will see it get continually populated with relevant documents and files that the Blinkx tool finds on the user's PC and out on the web.

Now, website owners can create what Blinkx calls "customisable" Smart Folders for visitors to install on their own machines. Upon download, these Smart Folders will contain an initial set of the website's content and links, which thereafter are automatically updated and added to.

That way, users can receive new content from the website without having to visit it. Thus, a Smart Folder of this type becomes a tool for website owners to distribute their content.

"It's another kind of [content] subscription mechanism. It's an interesting one with interesting differences [from technologies such as RSS]," says David Schatsky, a Jupiter Research analyst.

A Smart Folder is being used by the producers of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" to promote the upcoming film. The Smart Folder can be obtained on or by going to the official movie website, clicking on the "downloads" button and selecting the "smart folder" option.

It was a coup for a small start-up company such as Blinkx to nab this deal for a major motion picture site, but now comes the hard part of enticing users to download the Smart Folder, a concept most people aren't yet familiar with, Schatsky says.

"It'll be interesting to see how many consumers take the offer, because it can be difficult to explain what this is. It may be a challenge to get consumers to accept the offer," Schatsky says.

Even for those who do install Smart Folders, the jury is still out on whether users will take to the concept of booting up their PCs and opening folders on their desktop to see what's new in them, Schatsky says. "It really boils down to how positive the experience is for users. It's too early to say," Schatsky says.

Meanwhile, Blinkx has also upgraded the general Smart Folders technology to let users share them. Thus, now users have the option of sharing a Smart Folder with colleagues, friends, and family members via e-mail. To have the ability to share Smart Folders, users must have Blinkx 3.0, which is the latest version of the Blinkx Internet and PC search product.

Users who don't have Blinkx get a version of the product when they download a "customisable" Smart Folder or accept the invitation to share a Smart Folder. The Blinkx version these users get is lighter in features than the regular one.

By fostering the adoption of the product, this new ability to share Smart Folders also will double as a viral marketing technique for Blinkx, Schatsky says. "Consumers like to share information that they find online with their friends, and this provides another mechanism for consumers to do that, and to the extent they adopt it, it will increase Blinkx's number of users," he says.

The Blinkx product can be downloaded for free from