Monday, May 07, 2007

Search engines that don't suck

So since Google has gone to the Dark Side, I have been experimenting the last few days with different search engines. (Thanks, incidentally, to Mentor, Gnome, Geeka, and Rebecca, who all left comments with suggestions of search engines to try out.) I am sure you will be deeply excited to know that I am now ready to share my hard-won wisdom with teh internets.

For the benefit of those of you with reading comprehension difficulties, I have helpfully divided the list below into three sections: Search engines that suck, search engines that don't suck, and search engines with extra awesomeness. I am not going to review any of them in depth, but will annotate each with a brief, yet somehow still incredibly helpful and witty comment. I won't pretend this list is at all objective,* but maybe it will give you some ideas if you too are planning to abandon the Evil One.

Search engines that suck

Ms Dewey has possibly the most irritating interface I have ever come across. Make sure you have your speakers set to low or turned off if you try out this page at work.

Metacrawler sprinkles ads surreptitiously throughout the search results.

Grokker broke my browser. Ten seconds to load, my arse. Maybe for those of you in the lands of infinite bandwidth.

Search engines that don't suck

Alltheweb is like an ugly version of Google. Yes, I know I can skin it. But I can't be bothered. And the fact that it too automatically detects the Danish setting of my browser makes me fear for the future. reminds me of a butler. Reviews suggest it works pretty well, though.

Accoona seems pretty average. Cluttered. Gets averagely relevant results. A bit like Google but not as good. (Although the "target your search" dropdown boxes are kind of cool.)

Yahoo! is okay, but kind of ordinary. And looks a bit unprofessional up on your screen. Google displaying on screen is something you can get away with when your boss walks into the office unexpectedly. Yahoo! not so much.

Exalead has a nice "narrow your search" bar on the right-hand side. The results don't seem very relevant, though, and apparently it's nowhere near the size of Google, nor has it updated its index in the past two years.

Aftervote is fun. And you can pretend you are part of the elite by cluttering your screen with all sorts of "advanced settings" that the plebs don't know about. It seemed to return relevant results, too.

Search engines with extra awesomeness

Zuula searches across Google, Yahoo, MSN, Gigablast and Exalead and returns the results in tabbed form. Even though Google has cruelly betrayed me, I would be prepared to keep using it via Zuula, since that way I get the Google goodness without the personalised experience.

Dogpile, irritatingly, includes hits from ads among its results, but it seems to return a much lower ratio of ads to real sites compared to Metacrawler. (Did it just wag its tail at me?) Like Zuula, it uses the major search engines, including Google (and thankfully NOT the personalised version, even when I am logged into my gmail account). (And it did just wag its tail at me.)

Goodsearch gives a penny per search to a charity of your choice. It's powered by Yahoo!, so the search results are good, too.

Vivissimo is Clusty with a different interface. But I saw Clusty first.

Clusty is my new boyfriend. Oh. my. god. I honest-to-goodness(ly) felt shivers down my spine when I saw my first search results all grouped so nicely into clusters. I felt only a small twinge of regret as I deleted Google from my bookmarks toolbar, and it was more than balanced out by anticipation and intellectual superiority I felt when adding Clusty in its place. The only downside is that it doesn't search the major engines like Google and Yahoo! but only smaller, free ones. Even so, the quality of the results it is returning is astoundingly good.

In Summary

I think I will be relying on Clusty and Zuula from now on. Maybe with some Goodsearch thrown in. Take that, Evil Empire!


* I did perform the same three tests on all of them initially, though. First I did two searches related to my dissertation, each of which on Google turns up a few thousand results with some extremely useful stuff in the first few pages. Then (completely arbitrarily and unfairly), I searched for the acronym for an upcoming conference, for which Google USED TO return the conference website as the top hit. I then bookmarked the search engines that turned up useful results on all three of those searches, and continued to play with them for a couple of days to decide which would be The One.


post-doc said...

I feel badly for Dogpile. After being so friendly (with the wagging of the tail), he was thrown over for a better site. Poor thing.

I admit I was worried when you decided google was all evil. I wondered how you'd ever search again! Is there anything other than google? Does google not rule all searches and information? But apparently there are options, so I'm glad you found some that work well for your purposes. (And I enjoyed the description of your evaluation methods there at the end. Nice.)

betty said...

Wow, I really liked Clusty. I also hadn't heard of Pandora until reading your comment the other day about how it won't let not US listeners use it anymore. Fortunately I am in the US (sorry, not trying to rub it in, I swear) and I LOVE IT! Now I love Clusty too! thanks!

Anonymous said...

Exalead's index is getting better and better, and is updated in real-time (a least that is what they say, but since one can sort results by date, it's possible to check that results are pretty fresh)

Rebecca said...

Thank you so very much for that info. I've chosen the same 3 as you, for the same reasons.

I wish Clusty would change its interface, though, I feel like I'm on a Jiffy Lube website or something. Also, while I love how Clusty lets you choose to search specifically in Wikipedia and both it and Zuula let you search blogs, I'd really prefer they wouldn't put "blog(s)" next to "jobs". I keep reading it as blow jobs and its distracting.

I think you should tweak this post, adding the background from your original one, and submit it to some computer mags. Don't change the title.

Good job. Thanks again.

StyleyGeek said...

Postdoc: I do secretly use Dogpile occasionally, just because I like the dog.

Betty: glad to be of use!

Anonymous: it is possible that Exalead has fixed the index update problem since the review I linked to. I still wasn't happy with the results I got from my searches, though.

Rebecca: I have no idea what Jiffy Lube is. It sounds like it might have something to do with those blow jobs you are fixated on... If you don't like the Clusty interface, you can use Vivissimo instead, which is Clusty with a different interface.

StyleyGeek said...

Oh, and I think computer mags probably want higher-quality analysis of the search engines than, "Did that just wag its tail at me?" and " reminds me of a butler".

Rebecca said...

Jiffy Lube is a quick car tune up place but, yeah, it could probably work either way. Will try Vivissimo and hope they don't have blogs and jobs snuggled up next to each other.

No, no, computer mags have a great sense of humor. That's why I thought of it when I read your post. Computer geeks, both readers and writers, can be hilarious at times. I bet they'd love your post as an article. I know they'd go for the title.

In fact, you and Geekman are both such entertaining writers you should consider looking into more mainstream publications and/or websites for your non-technical writing. It could prove to be a nice little secondary source of income, who knows?

Anyway, thanks for the info. I really needed it.

The History Enthusiast said...

I have taken you up on your suggestions and have narrowed it down to my two new favorites: clusty and zuula. I even downloaded the clusty toolbar (I use Firefox) and have lots of fun playing with it!

Chard said...

You are certainly one funny and wonderful person...whomever u r..Hi: I am Chard. I am also...fumb'lin 2wards geekdom, and found you via a search engines suck search. I have a much better Idea, I thinkith

Are you talkable? I'm checkable, I guess, though I have left SM hurt. (Physically, car accident, better now, thanks for that look.) At facebook, the socialSM site, I am either Richard Edwards Breed IV, or Chard Breed. On G+, the thinkersSM site, Chard Breed (I ..think...?) and my edress is chardbreed @the latters webmail.
...It's so simple, it is stupid, sort of - Einstein surely has a great quote which would put that spiritually. Indeed: :Great minds always encounter violent opposition from mediocre minds" Einstein. (I'm certain I have it wrong, google quotes and ...Hmm, well: use one of the site you just turned me onto, and there's a very cool site which somehow got them all right...famous quotes. In closing, Thank you...I'm off to checkout your search site suggestions, however, they are all so off. Like governance, the solution is so very simple, and I worked in Maison Blanche for 21 I have a feel for that one: legislate out...corruption. It is easy, and I have a website which puts the solution in a ten list. I hope to hear from you somehow! So...
Thanking you in advance, I am,