The woods seem to be full of new search engines. The last time this happened, we tried them all, fooled around with them for a bit, and then quickly chose one -- it was just too much trouble to use different search engines for different purposes. Who remembers AltaVista, DogPile, or Northern Light?
I wonder if it's a coincidence that search engines seem to come in bunches,or whether it's the lure of economic riches that pulls them into the market simultaneously?
In any case, we have several, quite different ones, that have all gotten my attention in the past few weeks. In typical fashion I have been fooling around with them, trying to see if one if them is actually a candidate to supplant Google (which I use at least dozens, if not hundreds of times a day). I've tried:
- Microsoft's BING -- How could you miss it. It's clever TV ads are everywhere. But the ads seems to position it for consumer tasks like shopping. I mainly use my search engine for finding things. BING actually works pretty well for that, too. I like the way it displays the results of searches -- nice eye candy -- but I don't find that it offers me as much information and it's really more for consumer tasks like shopping comparisons. I may yet try it for that -- if I remember to.
- Wolfram Alpha -- Isn't that a catchy name? This is a serious attempt to help you find things from a constructed knowledgebase, using mathematical algorithems, based on those from Wolfram's successful Mathematica product. It does some things very well but it doesn't understand some questions -- which Google gets right away -- at all. Mysterious. I suspect they are not in its knowledgebase and this is a question of waiting for it to get built out. I think I'll check in with it in a month or two and see how it's doing.
- Hunch -- It isn't a search engine in any traditional sense, but it is in the sense that it will help you find what you're looking for -- anything from what to have for dinner to what kind of $500 purse you'd like and where to buy it. You can endlessly answer questions to help it know you better (so it will give you more custom answers) -- be careful, it's addictive. It can't answer some questions at all -- like Wolfram Alpha, it's a matter of what it knows.
Obviously this is an ongoing game. It's endless fun. With engines like Bing and Wolfram Alpha I test them against Google, asking the same question and looking at the results:
- How many answers do I get?
- Are they relevant or useful?
- Do I get the answer I'm looking for at the beginning -- thousands of answers aren't helpful if I have to read through hundreds of pages
- Do I like the way the engine presents information?
I test engines that seem to want to help me make decisions (like BING and Hunch) against each other. They are not at all alike, but it's fun to see what kinds of results they offer and I'm probably going to only use one or the other IRL.