Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Web Search - Explore your Options

Searching has become one of the most used function by anybody using the Internet - maybe second to the popularity of Email. This is because apart from Email, what makes Internet really very useful for the average user is, the search engines that allow him to search for and find the information he needs. Just think of what the state of the Internet would have been if we didn't have the capability of searching for what we want.
Realizing the uniqueness of search in the internet, there has been an explosion of search engines on the web brought out by different companies. The most popular being Google, Yahoo and MSN (owned by Microsoft) in decreasing order of popularity (though that may change in the future). Google claims to have indexed and ranked a couple of billion web pages more than its nearest competitors and is in the forefront in the race for supremacy in the web search arena followed closely by Yahoo. Both these companies have been acquiring other value based companies which were developing search products and striving to enhance their respective search portfolio . In fact Google and Yahoo are continuously adding cutting edge new features to their web search.
For example, if you visit the Yahoo website, you can not only search websites but also image,music and video files on the net using their search interface. Just to check how effective the video search was, I gave the search term "Taj Mahal" and pressed the search button. I was amazed to get dozens of links pointing to the video clips related to my search query.

Search for News

Both Google and Yahoo are also providing up to the minute news gathered from hundreds of news websites which is another really unique feature of their search engines. To get a first hand experience visit news.google.com and Yahoo News.

Search for Products

In fact both these search giants are refining their search technologies and including new specialized features on a frequent basis. Google has a unique product search called Froogle. For instance say, I want to buy a television within the price range $100 - $150. I just have to enter my search query in Froogle giving the price range and it will filter the search and spit out only those websites that satisfy my search criteria.

Search for scholarly literature

Another feature unique to Google is the Google Scholar . It enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. Using Google Scholar, you can find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg (so to speak) in the internet search arena.

Visit the Google Services page to get a realistic picture of the extent of specialization carried out by Google.
Can't make up your mind about opting for Google or Yahoo?
No Problem!!
There is a website called YaGoohoo!gle which allows you to specify your query and search both the search engines simultaneously. This site displays the search output of the respective search engines in left and right panels on its website. Really cool if you want to analyze the search displays of both the search engines for a particular search query.
MSN has the advantage over Google and Yahoo in that it lets you search the Encarta Encyclopedia via their web search. Google and Yahoo in their race for domination has released search softwares which can be used to not only search the net but also the files residing in your computer.
Now does that mean that Yahoo, Google and MSN are the only options available to the netizens ? Not at all.

More Search sites

Here are some of the other interesting search sites I have come across while browsing the net.
  • A9.com - is a powerful search engine, using web search and image search results enhanced by Google, Search Inside the Book results from Amazon.com, reference results from GuruNet, movies results from IMDb. The uniqueness of this site is that it remembers your information so you don’t have to. You can keep your own notes about any web page and search them; The site claims that it is a new way to store and organize your bookmarks; it even recommends new sites and favorite old sites specifically for you to visit.
  • Clusty - A search engine which uses a unique clustering algorithm to search for your data.
  • Alexa Web Search
  • Teoma
  • Invisible Net - It includes a directory of some of the best hidden resources on the net that you normally would not find using an ordinary search engine and hence its name. The directory includes resources that are informative, of high quality, and contain worthy information from reliable information providers that are not visible to general-purpose search engines.
  • DMoz.org - This is not a search engine but an Open Directory Project. It is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a vast, global community of volunteer editors.
  • Ask Jeeves - Search by typing Questions in a form that you normally ask other people. For example, type "In which country is Taj Mahal located ?" and get your answer.
These are by no means the full list of search engines populating the web. There are hundreds of others which you might come across while searching the net. One particular search engine that I came across was Speegle . The speciality of this search engine is that it reads out the results of your search in a man's or woman's voice (you have to turn on your speakers). So you are saved from staring at the monitor to check your search results.

Epilogue
Even though the domains Yahoo , Google and MSN are synonymous to web searches, they are not the only ones populating the web. There are numerous specialized search engines, meta search engines (querying multiple search engines at the same time and giving results) and Directories (hand edited search databases) out there. In fact the beauty of the internet is the access to infinite choices of search sites that the netizen has for finding the data he is looking for.

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