What’s New In Search Engines

The “Greg and Gary Show” went on this morning, as Greg Notess and Gary Price discussed the latest developments in search engines. They concentrated mainly on the “Big Four”—AskJeeves, Google, MSN, and Yahoo!—but they also briefly covered some of the lesser known search engines. Their slides with all the links are here.

Greg stressed that it’s important to look at several of the search engines and said that if you are only searching one of them, you are not doing a comprehensive search. Here are a few of the latest search engine features:
AskJeeves: It has made many significant improvements and is vastly improved over what it was several years ago. The search results page shows a number of very useful links to help expand or narrow the search. Their cached page carry a date and time that the page was cached—a very useful feature. One complaint about AskJeeves has been the large number of ads on their pages, but they have recently decreased the number.
MSN: It shows you the time of caching (date only). A useful feature is free access to the Encarta encyclopedia. In common with some other engines, MSN has a Virtual Earth page for displaying maps. A “Site Builder” button allows the user to choose advanced features and have the command automatically added to the search box, which is good for people (like me!) who never can remember the syntax of many of these features.
Yahoo!: Cache pages have a link to the Wayback Machine. Tabs on the search page allow the user to see many “verticals” or related searches. A limited amount of content from subscription databases is available in search results. Yahoo! now has a page to search blogs and also link to Flickr images. Yahoo! Mindset allows sliders to be set to control the importance of various characteristics of products when shopping. And results can now be sent to a cell phone, indicating Yahoo!’s recognition of the growing importance of mobile computing.
Google: Stock prices appear, if they’re available on results pages for company searches. Google says it has a blog search capability, but they are really searching RSS feeds, not the entire content of blogs.
A9: Owned by Amazon, A9 has a number of features derived from the Amazon site, such as “Search Within the Book” (which has data from more publishers than Google Print has and which also can show the 100 most frequently used words in the book to form a rudimentary concordance—a potentially useful feature). The user can indicate which types of content (books, images, etc.) to include in the search. A9’s map and local search feature has the very useful capability of browsing images of buildings along a given block of a street.
Exalead: The only search engine that allows true proximity searching and truncation. It also features automatic display of related search terms.
Gigablast: Provides a link to the Wayback Machine and also allows subset searching of retrieved information, including domains and paths.
Rollyo: Rollyo.com (short for “roll your own”) uses Yahoo!’s database, but incorporates subset searching, which Yahoo! does not.
RedLightGreen: Free access to the RLG Union Catalog.
Topix: A huge database of news, accessing 14,000 sources and organizing the data into over 200,000 topic groups. An RSS feed is available.
Findory: A personalized news search engine.

Clearly, there’s a lot going on in the search engine world, and keeping up with all the changes is a huge job. As Gary mentioned, sometimes changes and enhancements appear, only to disappear shortly afterwards. We can thank Greg and Gary for their Herculean efforts to keep us all on top of this rapidly moving field.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today

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