We do all seem to be fixated on Google as the ‘best’ search engine, and it’s true that it really seems to be the best ‘general purpose’ search engine around. If we add Yahoo, MSN, and Ask, to the list then market researchers suggest that the four so called ‘big brand’ search engines account for 99% or more of searches. I am just as much guilty of making these de facto choices as anyone, but I came across this really interesting article on ‘the top one hundred alternative search engines’ and have since started to make more use of some others, and think about search engines again in terms of their role in the developing new people-centric Web 2.0.
My particular favourite, picked up from the article, is to access Google via http://www.usabilityviews.com/simply_google.htm which gives much better control over all the Google search options from a single page. However I don’t want to repeat the article in commenting on the various search engines, though I do recommend it as well worth reading. I do want to focus on one of the groups identified, ‘recommendation engines’, which, as an example, are able to work out from the title of a book others that follow the same genre. Assuming you enjoyed your last book this allows you to select your next book to read on the basis of similarity.
What surprised me was that www.digg.com and www.technorati.com didn’t get mentioned, okay perhaps they are not technically search engines in the format of the big four, but in finding the Blog topics and their authors that I want to read they are, at least to me, a critical resource. I guess strictly speaking they are listings places, and here is my point. I believe that the overloaded content mess that is now called Web 1.0 required the construction of the popular definition of a search engine to help navigation, but that Web 2.0, the people oriented web requires a different approach, one not surprisingly based on people, and not content.
To take the quote at the top of the first page of Technorati; ’55 million blogs…. Some of the have to be good’, and that’s a very different problem to deal with than indexing 55 million blogs, the basic task of a search engine. I like the term ‘Recommendation Engines’ as describing what I want, but not the definition given in the article. I believe we are looking for ways to sort out the 55 million blogs, not just by topic, but by how good a blogger is at their topic. Now that’s clearly a subjective challenge, good to me may mean boring to you.
And that brings me to Digg, and I am increasingly using Digg as my first pass filter to see what has been posted, and if it’s worth taking a look at. A great example of this was when Yahoo launched ‘Pipes’, within a week it was the number 4 topic on Digg, and rightly so for the most interesting addition it makes Web capabilities. Now if I had missed the launching press statements would I have known to ‘google’ for ‘Yahoo Pipes’? That’s where at least some of the 55 million are a real help in my definition of a ‘relationship engine’.