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Search engines with a twist
In the beginning, there was the search engine. You typed in a search term, clicked Search, and were presented with tens of thousands of links. It was good.
But not good enough. No one has time to look through tens of thousands of links. So search engines have been scrambling to provide innovations that get you information faster, more precisely, and more enjoyably than ever before. Some are succeeding, and some are just innovating, coming up with new twists on search technology that, at worst, are interesting* and, at best, give you a compelling way to find exactly what you're looking for in the least amount of time. The best innovations are downright addictive.
Take Answers.com (http://www.answers.com), for instance. How often do you log on to a search engine and look for information that you know you'll find in the first five or 10 links? Probably fairly often. Yet you still have to sift through those first five or 10 links and click in a few places to find what you're looking for.
Answers.com has a better way. Instead of providing you with a list of links, Answers.com gives you "answers." These aren't the type of answers that fee-for-service Web sites hand out to specific questions. Instead, you're given intelligent results from actual Web pages based upon your search words - and you don't have to click any links to get the results.
Let's say you're looking for information about American author Ernest Hemingway. Type the search term "Ernest Hemingway" into Anwers.com, click Go, and almost immediately you'll get an overview of Hemingway's life, his writings, important dates, a photograph, and biographical selections from several sources on the Internet. All of the information is presented stylishly, too, in a form that's appealing to the eye. Each section of information is annotated at the end with links for further material on the Internet. And to get this information, you've had to click no links.
To make sorting through the information easier, Answers.com provides a navigation bar on the left-hand side of the screen, with relevant topics such as "works," "personality," and so on. Amazingly, Answers.com does all of this for any search term you provide.
AskJeeves (http://www.ask.com), long a feisty competitor to search engine behemoths Google and Yahoo, has also figured out that fewer clicks are better. While not giving you instantaneous information, a la Answers.com, AskJeeve's new Binoculars feature helps you preview sites before you actually click a link, thus potentially saving you some fruitless journeys down the side streets of cyberspace.
Go to AskJeeves, and search for any term, as usual. Before clicking on any of the links that are returned, however, notice that beneath each link is a small graphic that looks like a pair of binoculars. Allow your mouse cursor to hover over the binoculars, and in an instant, a representation of the first page of the Web site will appear next year mouse cursor. Move to another pair of binoculars, and another representation of a Web page will appear before your eyes.
AskJeeves has taken a page out of the playbook of Answers.com, too, by providing a text-based overview of the search term, when appropriate, at the top of its list of search results. Search results for Karl Marx, for example, began with an introductory blurb about Marx, complete with picture. Also like Answers.com, AskJeeves provides a navigation bar that includes "related topics."
Search engine newcomer Clusty (http://www.clusty.com), operated by Vivisimo, also offers Web site previews when you click on a magnifying glass image under each returned link. But there's more to Clusy than the magnifying glass.
The name "clusty" is drawn from the word "cluster," meaning "a group of the same or similar elements gathered together." Clusty believes that it can dramatically improve search by doing the work of organizing, or clustering, search results for you.
In Clusty, a search for French philosopher and author Albert Camus, for instance, results in your usual list of links. But alongside those links, a "cluster panel" appears with topics such as "existentialism," "quotes," "bibliography," amd "myth of sisyphus." You can cluster any search term by topic, source, or URL (Web address).
Clearly clustering can be a boon to researchers looking for particular aspects of a general term. Finding a list of quotations by Albert Camus, for example, would be laborious using a traditional search engine. With Clusty, you can drill right down to links that provide just what you're looking for.
Metasearch sites - those that take your search term and simultaneously query a handful of popular search engines - continue to evolve - and they represent an intriguing option to single-engine searching.
Vivisimo (http://vivisimo.com) is a metasearch tool that is categorically different. Enter a search into Vivisimo, and the site will not only retrieve results from multiple search engines but also automatically organise the results into categories. Perform a search for "Mark Twain," for example, and Vivisimo displays the results and tells you how many pages fall under the clickable categories of "Books," "Quotations," "Photos," and "Essays." Enter "super bowl," and you'll wind up with categories such as "tickets," "nfl," and "betting." Vivisimo offers a great way to leverage the associative nature of the Web to find information of interest.
Kartoo (http://www.kartoo.com) is a metasearch tool for those with a visual bent. Instead of presenting search results in a standard list, Kartoo displays returned links as a "map" of interconnected documents. As you scroll the mouse cursor over the documents, a panel on the left side of the screen provides a summary of the site. Move your cursor away from the retrieved list of documents, and you'll see the "topics" about your search term that the engine found. Kartoo is available in multiple languages.
Old favorite Dogpile (http://www.dogpile.com) has been around a few years now, but it has added a host of features, including the ability to pull news, videos, audio, and images from* multiple search engines, as well as standard Web pages. Looking spartan like Google, Dogpile also now allows you to display results from each search engine individually.
So how about you folks? Found any nifty search engines you'd care to share with us?
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Re: Search engines with a twist
Some great info there Jay. Thanks for posting it.
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