Google, now a household name associated with ‘web search’, remains the top search engine on the internet followed by a distant second, Yahoo. The word ‘google’ is so popular that it even enjoys a place in the Merriam Webster dictionary meaning “to use the Google search engine to retrieve information on the internet.”
Sporting an extremely clean homepage, Google executes your search queries at lightning speed and the search results are relevant most of the times. If you frame your search queries right, you are very likely to find the information you are looking for.
However, there’s life beyond Google and Yahoo! — there exists dozens of specialised search engines that are extremely efficient and innovative though not very popular.
Let’s discover some of these hidden or unexplored gems on the internet that are not Google:
Truveo (from AOL) is “the” search engine that helps you find video content from all video sharing websites (like YouTube, blip.tv), content portals (like CNet, iVillage) and most mainstream media websites (like CNBC, BBC, Reuters). Truveo indexes web videos in near real time so you can safely rely on it for timely searches. [Review of Truveo]
Like Truveo, Blinkx TV is another innovative service that indexes almost all the video content on the web. What’s very impressive about Blinkx is that it also indexes the audio portion of the video and transcribes that to text using speech recognition — that makes Blinkx search results more relevant (you can search by lyrics of the song). And Blinkx shows short preview clips for every search result without you having to load the full video in the browser. [Review of Blinkx]
Discussions on message boards are generally in the question and answer format (like how to enable Bluetooth in BlackBerry) where knowledgeable or experienced members help resolve the problems faced by newbies who started the thread. While big players like Google or Yahoo do index these web forums, they do not offer the option to restrict search result to only ‘discussion threads’ — that’s where Omgili can help.
Omgili is a specialised search engine that limits itself only to discussions happening on public internet forums and online mailing lists — it won’t index the regular web pages and is therefore a good place to find quick solutions to problems related to software, gadgets, programming languages or something else.
Coming to people search, Pipl and Spock rule the web. Type in any name and Pipl.com will extract every bit of information about that person from the web in seconds. Pipl will also show profile summaries (from Flickr, Amazon), research publications, web search results and recent news stories (if any) that relate to the person you are searching for. [Review of Pipl]
Spock is a new but promising player in the people search market — it pulls content from most social networking sites and also allows anyone to create their own profile on the web (along with photographs). Even Facebook now allows outsiders to search the profiles of millions of Facebook members that are public.
For searching content published on blogs (and other sites that offer RSS feeds), Ask Blog Search is one of the favourites because the results are almost spam free and can be sorted by date or popularity. Ask provides live previews so you can read the linked story by just hovering the mouse over the search results without visiting the main site. Technorati and IceRocket are also very good alternatives to Google Blog Search.
There aren’t any perfect search engines on the web. Google may return relevant results for some set of queries but Yahoo! or Windows Live may be a better fit for another set of words.
Meta Search, that combines search results from other web search engines, are therefore useful alternatives to regular search engines because you get the best of everything.
For instance, sites like AfterVote and Dogpile let you search the same query on Yahoo, Google and MSN simultaneously from one convenient location. You can also compare the results from various sources to find the search engine that returns the most relevant results for your queries.
And if you are looking for some good fun during search, try Ms Dewey at msdewey.com — it’s a very interesting interface for Windows Live search where you feel as if a real person is helping you search the internet. She even gets bored and makes funny actions when idle.