Sick of Google Search? A Guide to the Best Alternatives
Google Not Cutting it?
Are you fed up with Google? Maybe you don't like the way it chops and changes its search engine algorithm, or perhaps you are fed up with lots of sponsored listing or content farm results. But what other genuine search engine alternatives are there, and do they make any difference?
Bing is Microsoft's search engine, and together with its partner sites has a 13.1% market share. It is quite similar to Google in what it offers, it has sponsored search results at the top and the right hand side. The left hand side offers you various different options, search suggestions and so on. Like Google, it has various offerings including images, videos, maps, news, shopping etc.
I quite liked the Visual Search in Bing. You can browse for a particular category, then look through the different images to find the one you want. For instance if you've seen a dog but don't know what breed it is, you can flick through photos of the different dog breeds until you find the one you were looking for.
The normal image search is quite good too. You can refine an image search by colour, style, type and so on. So if you type 'bags' in, you can narrow it down to shopping bags, plastic bags, bags of money... So I choose shopping bag, I can now narrow it down further, choose a colour, size or something else. It's not perfect but it is rather good.
Finally on the subject of images, each day there is a different background picture on the Bing homepage (don't worry, it loads in a split second) and there are various 'hot spots' in the image which you can hover over and click on to find out more. It is a bit of a gimmick, but I actually quite like it.
Yahoo is the grand-daddy of them all, one of the oldest continuous websites online. In the early days it didn't do search in the conventional sense, but instead built the largest and best website directory of the early internet. This was a human editted search engine, with a limited number of sites on. This was fine in the first few years but eventually the internet outgrew it, as it grew faster than any human driven indexing approach could keep up. It borrowed Google's search for a while, but in 2004 it launched its own search engine index.
If you go to http://www.yahoo.com you will get a large, cluttered page with all Yahoo's content, games, maps, news headlines and a whole lot more. There's some good stuff in here worth exploring, but if you want pure unadulterated search you are better off going to http://search.yahoo.com which has a minimalist search page much like Google.
Yahoo has the usual search results down the main section of the page, with sponsored results to the top and right hand side. The left hand column on the results page houses yahoo's suggestions - suggested additional searches, top websites and to show search results from (varies depending on the search - sites such as Wikipedia, BBC, IMDB & Answers.com. It also has tools like 'sketch a search' which may be of some use in local searches when you are searching for particular restaurants, hotels etc. Yahoo's image search is quite intuitive too. If you type in 'Plymouth' for instance, it offers you various collections relating to Plymouth: Plymouth cars, Plymouth, MA, Mayflower 2, Plimoth Plantation etc. There's also a safe search function which you can easily turn on from the front page.
The smallest of the main search engines, http://www.ask.com, or Ask Jeeves as it is often known, started out life as the idea of a butler, Jeeves (from the P.G. Wodehouse books). You could ask Jeeves any question, and it would do its best to answer it for you. It was an early attempt at a natural language search engine. It was an interesting idea even if the results didn't match the idea. Today it is more standard. Like the other major search engines, it has sponsored results, but only a couple each at the top and bottom of the page. The right hand side has a list of suggested searches, and I must say those suggestions seem more helpful than the other search engines. I searched for 'The Bourne Supremacy' (a film) and it suggested the following searches:
Cast of the Bourne Supremacy
Bourne Supremacy Trailer
Matt Damon (main actor)
and various others. Mind you, in typing in the recent Oscar winning film of 2011, The King's Speech it did get a bit confused and thought I was talking about Martin Luther King!
Wolfram Alpha is different from the rest of the pack. Instead of being a text based search engine it is a 'computational engine'. It mines thousands of separate databases of information to compute answers to questions. It isn't good at everything however. It is likely to better at answering a question on the world population in 1900 than what Justin Bieber likes for breakfast. It is worth trying however, particularly if doing research into a particular topic.
Meta Search Engines
A meta search engine, rather than using its own search engine, combines and collates the results of various other search engines to provide a unique set of results, potentially the best of all worlds.
http://www.dogpile.com - one of the oldest and most established of meta search engines. It searches all 4 of the major engines: Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask and combines them into one set of results. Next to the result it tells you which search engines it has found the site on.
http://www.webcrawler.com - Another meta search engine similar to dogpile.
Best Search Engines?
Some Final Suggestions
If you fancy trying something different, new or unusual, try one of these:
http://www.gigablast.com - Claims to be a green search engine, powered 90% by wind energy.
http://www.blekko.com - A new search engine utilising hashtags. Each hashtag is a collection of different sites you can search. You can either use one of the official hashtags or create your own. So you can create a /favourites hashtag for your favourite sites then you can just search those sites by searching for, say 'books about henry viii' just in your favourite websites. You can share your hashtags and use other people's too. An interesting concept if nothing else.