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JUNE 12, 2008   

Search: alternatives to Google

Day in and day out Google does a darn good job at finding what I'm looking for on the Internet. Still, there are times when Google doesn't find what I need. Yesterday I mentioned SearchMe.com, which displays your search results as thumbnail (small) images of the webpages themselves. Much more visual than Google. Their tagline says it all: "You'll know it when you see it."


Today I tried two more variations of search engines. Mahalo.com calls itself "the world's first human-powered search engine." The company pays people—"guides"—to write search results pages for specific terms. They say that their search results include "only great links" although I'm not yet convinced that this is true. Still, the idea of using people to filter the search results is nothing more than the time-honored approach humans have used all along: trust the experts. Whether this "Back to the future" approach has significant benefits still is up in the air.


A totally different way to approach search is to try to "understand" human language, the goal of Powerset.com. In Powerset you ask a question as opposed to typing in a few key words. At present Powerset only searches Wikipedia, although they promise to expand this in the future. As with Maholo, this seems to be a sound idea: exploring the relationship between things, simply stated as subject, verb, object. I tried two phrases (Who shot Oswald, and How do I learn interactive design?) comparing the results with what Google found, and I didn't see a dramatic difference.

My conclusion? Each of these approaches to searching the Web has potential, and I'm glad that people aren't resigned to Google as our sole source of information. However, my quick and limited testing didn't show a dramatic advantage to either of these search engines when compare to Google. But as with everything, you may have a different opinion. Give them—and SearchMe.com—a try, and let me know what you think by clicking on "Add your comment" below.

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