Nov 9, 2009

The Search For Search, Part I.

What happens if you enter “search” into your favorite search engine? Go ahead, try it. In Google, the top result is likely to be DogPile or AltaVista and various paid listings for free people search. In Yahoo, it’s Yahoo! Search. And in, it’s Ask, followed by People Search and Free Public Records.

Clearly, Google is still the undisputed king of search – and rightly so, with its innovative algorithms and diverse array of tools and analytics. But there are some new kids on the block that promise to stir things up a bit and provide both users and site owners with more choices than ever.

Let’s start with, still in beta, which calls itself a general purpose “semantic” search engine. Hakia defines ‘relevance’ not in terms of popularity, but as results that are recent and sourced from credible websites. In addition, search results are grouped into All results, Credible sites, News, Images, and Meet Others (start a conversation room). Also in beta is Kosmix, a ‘categorization engine’ which organizes topics into a dashboard of news, videos, reviews, conversations and a continuous Twitter feed.

Specialized search offers new, focused ways to find information quickly. Search-cube, for example, is a graphical search engine that presents visual search results in a compact, 3-D format (hence the cube), so you see web pages before you click through.

IceRocket isn’t brand new, though their emphasis on real-time indexing and introduction of new features offers an interesting search alternative; “Big Buzz”, launched last April, delivers search results for blogs, tweets, news, video and images all on the same page. Live since June, Collecta strives to be even more real-time, by monitoring the update streams of news sites, popular blogs and social media.

Then there is WolframAlpha, the brainchild of Stephen Wolfram, a particle physics genius and computational scientist. W|A isn’t so much a search tool as an enormous calculator, a ‘computational knowledge engine’ designed to answer user queries on mathematics, dates and times, chemistry, and places. And finally, Microsoft’s Bing stills gets a lot of buzz as a ‘decision engine’. Featuring a colorful home page design, Bing utilizes new algorithms to provide the context behind each search which, in turn, aims to deliver more relevant matches for local search, health questions, shopping, and more.

Next: We’ll take a closer look at how to use each of these new tools in “The Search For Search, Part II”.

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