Search engine redux

So, I’ve been feeling like Google has become Yahoo! circa 1999 recently (wow! free email for life!). What’s really all that new, anyway?–lots of results, images, video, news, and other categories. But the interface is just not new at all! This I learned after looking into alternative search engines with a class of students in fourth grade. What about visual learners? Categorization and grouping those massive results? Natural language? Subject-specific?

In fact, since I’ve been asking the question for the past year of many library users, “Which search engine tool do you use?” and received Google 95% of the time (alternatives usually include, surprise, Yahoo!), it’s getting pretty boring to talk about searching. Until I discovered AltSearchEngine’s list of choices and how search engines are getting divvied up in ways that I’d never heard of!

Specific searches tools for specific uses, such as Helia (health), simple facts (FactBites), or charitable donations (Noza) ! New graphical interfaces (SearchMe, Kartoo, Quintura)! Nowadays with search, there are a lot of people out for a piece of the Google pie, but they aren’t really getting much traction. Why not?

According to some, it’s the design interface that’s key, and I’d agree–it has to be simple, clean, and easy to use and many of these new alternatives don’t stick closely enough to this to match Google. Some say it’s the crawling and ranking algorithm that make it work–the “intuitive” feel of the result that is created by the search engine reading your mind and magically returning relevant results (quantity doesn’t matter if the cream rises immediately to the top).Multi-tool

I think the toughest thing to get right is the assortment of tools for the user (which Google offers in its suite: personalized calendar, photo-sharing, blogging, and more) which goes beyond simple results-gathering. Plus you have to incorporate the above items and make your search ubiquitous (think:browser interoperability) and suddenly it’s the Swiss Army pocket knife versus the Swiss Army multi-tool–which would you prefer on a desert island?