Alternative search engines chart better path through cyberspace


Eagle WebThe universe is a vast place. An unimaginable amount of matter is in the ever-expanding realm we call space. But another ever-expanding place is right on Earth that seems to be trying to rival the material existence: cyberspace. The Internet, whose servers and cables take up a comparatively miniscule amount of matter, somehow has become a vast universe of information stored in the form of ones and zeroes.

Because interstellar space travel is unreachable in the near future, we don’t have to worry about navigating into a supernova or black hole, but travelers on the Internet often find themselves lost in a sea of Web pages. Try as they might, many Web users never find the destinations for which they set out.

Major search engines sometimes chart courses to unintended destinations

To help find their way through the Galactic Wide Web, users employ the use of Web charting tools referred to as search engines. However, not all these charts are created equal, and many can steer users to parts of digital galaxies they never wanted to venture.

The largest and most popular search sites are usually the biggest culprits in this type of misdirection. The term “google” is commonly used in place of “search” so often it has been defined as a verb in the Mirriam-Webster dictionary. (Google: v. - to use the Google search engine to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web.)

While I don’t usually endorse making up words based on silly Internet trends, this term is appropriate because I don’t believe using Google to find anything should be referred to as searching.

Considering that the first few results that come up on a Google search are advertisements and it may give you one or two relevant results listings and 346,729 completely irrelevant listings, searching with Google, and most of the large search engines, will not always give you anything even close to what you are looking for. These Web-space charts often send people hurtling into strange unrelated informational areas with no bearing on what they were seeking.

The term “search overload” coined by an ad campaign for Microsoft’s Bing search engine is an accurate portrayal of this phenomenon of unrelated information being hurtled at us.

Of course, the “search and decision” engine they advertise apparently has “decided” to give us the same crap the other major engines put out because Bing doesn’t fare any better. (However, I love all the pretty backgrounds.)

While these search engines can chart a course to a planned destination as long as the information you are looking for has enough traffic and buzz-words to be considered relevant (as opposed to relevancy based on actual site content), others are out there.

Try to think of as many search engines as you can.

If you can’t think of at least a dozen, you are in need of some upgraded search capability.

Hundreds if not thousands of search engines are on the Internet.

Blekko.com

One of my favorite new search sites can be found at blekko.com (no www). Blekko is a relatively new search engine specifically designed to eliminate spam, content farms (companies that employ large amounts of employees to write content to maximize search optimization results for the purpose of pushing advertisements to users on the web) and malware.

Blekko uses “slash tags,” which are keywords that refine or restrict search to a specific category. For example, if you were looking for information on cancer and addded the “/health” slash tag to your search, the search would push large medical- and health-related sites to the top of the search results and remove spam and content farm results out entirely.

The amazing part about the slash tag architecture is new tags can be created by anyone. Some tags are internal to the site and are developed by the programmers such as the /date tag, which presents the newest pages first.

Content tags are created by site editors and maintained by experts in the topical field. These tags give more respected sites priority in the search results. User-defined tags can be created and used by anyone and allow users to create a custom searching experience.

Blekko shares all its search engine optimization information, so users can see information about a website’s links and domains including the countries from which the links originated and how many other domains the information is duplicated.

Anyone can become an editor, making Blekko a user-driven search engine, allowing the site to become a tool for users by users.

The site is relatively new, so the slash tag system will become better developed as time goes on. The more it is used, the better the site will become.

Exalead.com

Another alternative search engine is exalead.com. Exalead has a great feature that can make it very useful, especially if a user if looking for a site he has been to before but doesn’t remember the name of the site.

Exalead not only gives a page link and an excerpt from the page, but also gives a screen shot of the website.

So the next time you can’t remember the name of your favorite kitten website, you can search for kittens in exalead and browse the results to find the familiar layout.

Exalead also allows users to refine search results by selecting and deselecting categories to filter out unrelated information.

Factbites.com

Factbites.com is a search engine that searches the entire content of pages, instead of just finding keywords. It uses the context of the information to better select what pages to show.

Also, instead of just giving an excerpt of the content that has the keywords included, it gives three separate complete sentences from the content that relate to the search term, so a user can get a better idea of what the site is about before he clicks the link and goes to the site.

These are only a few of the thousands of alternative search engines available on the Web, so don’t think you have to use Google, Bing or Yahoo! because they are the biggest.

The next time you find yourself lost in space, google some search engines and find one that works for you. If you are still lost, here is a site with plenty of links to get you started: http://www.pandia.com/powersearch/index.html#search-engines