In search of better searching
By John “jaQ” Andrews firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you frustrated when you search the Web?
Are you afraid of Google becoming the next evil, monolithic technology company?
Do you just want another option?
When Google figured out an algorithm to rank search results by the number of other sites that linked to them, they quickly became known as the most accurate search engine on the Web. Despite Google’s dominance in the search arena, other companies aren’t lying down. Every now and then a site pops up that promises revolutionary new search capabilities, but all too often it’s just hype. Who has the power to possibly knock Google off its throne?
• AltaVista Birthed in Digital Equipment Corporation’s lab in 1995. Developed the first searchable text database of the Web. Backed by Overture, recently acquired by Yahoo! Search Marketing. Home of Babelfish, which can translate text to and from dozens of languages. Yeah, they might be a player.
• Ask Though not quite as personable as its former identity, AskJeeves, Ask has formidable technology behind it. Its ExpertRank algorithm places different weights behind links from sites it considers to be more authoritative on certain subjects. It was also a pioneer in natural language search in the early days of the Web, allowing visitors to enter complete sentences in the form of a question. Now you can filter a search by clicking on related keywords.
• Hakia Enter “search engine” on Google and one of your sponsored links is likely to be Hakia.com, with the tagline, “A new search engine. Don’t tell anyone!” The moxie alone is worth a mention, but their ambition is to get closer to a human brain with semantic analysis, searching for meaning and context rather than just keywords. The site’s in beta now, so it’s not a usable competitor yet.
• Microsoft They came late to the search engine game, but never count Microsoft out. Even now, the Windows Live site at live.com is pretty much a clone of Google, with a simple search box and a couple options for finding images, news, maps or classifieds rather than any old Web page.
• Podscope As podcasts become more prevalent, the need to go back and mine them for information is rising. Personally, I dread the day Web users are so terrible at language they can’t even attempt to write up their thoughts, instead babbling into a microphone and forcing me to listen to an audio file rather than scan a page, but by that time perhaps someone will have finally come up with a perfect speech-to-text transcription program. Podscope searches people’s spoken words from the text you enter, so it’s a step in the right direction.
• Wikia The founder of Wikipedia is adamant that nonprofit entity Wikipedia has nothing to do with the search engine under development by Wikipedia’s parent company, Wikia. Rather than getting a computer program to emulate human smartness, users themselves will (hopefully) rank pages, much like users edit Wikipedia pages. Also, while the project is called Wikiasari internally, that probably won’t be the final name of the site. Whether this gets off the ground depends on the user community, which is likely to draw from Wikipedia. Not that they’re connected..