While the mainstream media tend to focus on the big three search engines-Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing-and many searchers tend to just use the same search engine (usually Google), there's actually a thriving world of alternative search engines out there that savvy searchers know to exploit. Each has its own niche and some are doing quite well-and that's no April Fooling. (Of course, there are always the ones with great ambitions that launch and then fizzle and die when economic realities set in. But competition is good-it keeps the search engines on their toes.) Some with the best new technologies tend to get acquired by one of the big players. Most of the top web search trainers implore their audiences to expand their horizons and try other search tools, including directories. It's best to keep an arsenal at hand rather than just a single weapon of choice.
Within the last year or so, we've covered the launch of search tools such as Hunch (a "decision engine" that gives recommendations and gets smarter the more you use it) and Wolfram Alpha (a "computational knowledge engine" that uses data sets it has acquired). See the list of links below for our NewsBreak coverage. Here I'll feature some other search tools that have been making the news of late.
First launched in beta in November 2008, metasearch tool LeapFish (www.leapfish.com) now boldly calls itself "an evolved search engine." (See the NewsBreak from January 2009: http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/NewsBreaks/New-Search-Engine-Hopes-to-Leap-Over-the-CompetitionLeapFishcom-52330.asp.) LeapFish is designed to capture the traditional, multimedia, and real-time web, through a single, connected search platform for both searching and sharing content-the two things users do most online.
LeapFish offers a "click-free" search interface that delivers search results as you type. The LeapFish search experience includes the following features:
- The merger of real time and traditional search allows users to conveniently access the readily available real time web while searching Google, Bing, and Yahoo!.
- Search the variety of the web in one page via Twitter, Digg, YouTube, Facebook, and more.
- Create a personalized lens to the web via customizable homepages with proprietary Twitter and Facebook applications.
- Share as you search on all popular social networking destinations via Twitter, Digg, Facebook, Delicious, StumbleUpon, and more.
LeapFish says it expects no less than 20 million searches this year and aims to double 2009's generated revenue of $10 million. In 2009 the company made substantial advancements and innovations to its growing search engine including real time search, deeper search results, personalized homepages, content sharing features, and proprietary Twitter and Facebook applications. The changes have helped grow the engine from an Alexa traffic ranking of 150,000 to 10,000 in less than one year.
"We are the only search platform searching all that users care about in the new web with over fifty providers including Google, Yelp, Twitter, YouTube, Mashable, Topsy, Wikipedia, and many others," says David Bruggeman, vice president of marketing. "The innovations and data integrations from 2009 have set LeapFish apart and are clearly reflected in our Alexa traffic ranking."
LeapFish recently integrated Topsy.com, a search engine that finds the most talked about links on Twitter and organizes them by popularity and influence.
Pandia calls hakia "one of the few serious alternatives to the big three (which are to become the big two when Yahoo! starts delivering Bing results)." hakia (www.hakia.com) is a semantic or meaning-based search engine. It uses semantic connections of words to concepts rather than relying on keyword matching. It attempts to narrow down search results to just the most credible pages and sites.
hakia recently introduced a new search experience following a "period of silence." Results are now returned in segments, including Web, Galleries, Credible sources, PubMed, News, Blogs, Twitter, Wikipedia, Images, Videos, Twitter, and Wikipedia. Each segment can be minimized or maximized, according to the searcher's preference. While some folks might like the convenience of the broad sweep and categorization, others called the design unfriendly with too much scrolling and too few clues up top. The Galleries are quite interesting, providing basic information about countries, cities, sports, people, animals, diseases and medical information, and much more.
The company also started a new web service called SENSEnews.com focused on real-time information, and offering personalization and visualization tools. The service is designed to help users make sense of emerging information from 30,000+ news sources, blogs, and Twitter. Users can create personalized charts to display news trends, which are called SENSE charts.
hakia has also launched NoBrandSearch.com as "an experiment to compare the core competencies of the search engines in the market... Each time you enter a query, each side of the screen is randomly selected from the search engines in the market. Their brands and special features are screened out. All you have to do is to decide which set of results are better." hakia of course hopes the results will speak for its superior performance.
Try a Directory
Finally, don't forget about an important resource that's been a staple of librarian recommendations for years. ipl2 (www.ipl.org) is the result of a merger of the Internet Public Library (IPL) and the Librarians' Internet Index (LII). The site is hosted by Drexel University's College of Information Science & Technology, and a consortium of colleges and universities with programs in information science are involved in developing and maintaining the ipl2. Additional directories are listed in WebSearchGuide by Gwen Harris in the next section.
For More Information
Pandia (www.pandia.com) is a good resource for keeping up with the latest developments in web search tools.
Mary Ellen Bates, "Life Beyond Google: Some of the Best of the Rest," FUMSI Report: Folio on Alternative Search Engines, http://web.fumsi.com/go/article/find/2742
Gwen Harris, WebSearchGuide-Research, www.websearchguide.ca/research/webfram.htm
CORRECTION: AltSearchEngines.com is no longer being updated. (With thanks to Gary Price of Resourceshelf.)
The Next Web Search is devoted to all things search related and is edited by Charles S. Knight, former editor of the blog AltSearchEngines and publisher of over 4,000 posts about alternative search engines.