We may be entering a new era for the Internet search. And, despite what you may think, Google is not the only choice. New search engines that are emerging across the Web strive to make searches faster, smarter, more personal and more visually interesting.
Some sites, like Twine and hakia, will try to personalize searches, separating out results you would find interesting, based on your Web use. Others, like Searchme, offer iTunes-like interfaces that let users shuffle through photos and images instead of the standard list of hyperlinks. Kosmix bundles information by type — from Twitter, from Facebook, from blogs, from the government — to make it easier to consume.
Wolfram Alpha, launched in 2009, is more of a gigantic calculator than a search: It crunches data to come up with query answers that may not exist online until you search for them. And sites like Twitter are trying to gain from the warp-speed pace of online news today by offering real-time searches of online chatter — something Google’s computers have yet to replicate.
Google, of course, remains the search king. Recent efforts to revolutionize Web searching have failed to unseat the dominant California company, which captures nearly 64 percent of U.S. online searches, according to comScore. Tech start-ups like Cuil, which declared itself as more powerful than Google, and Wikia, which relied on a community to rank search results rather than a math formula, have largely dwindled away after some initial buzz.
“The general trend has been relatively clear and consistent for the past five years: Google is growing its market share at the expense of every other engine,” said Graham Mudd, vice president for search and social media at comScore, a company that follows industry trends. The new class of search engines and data calculators enters the fray with those failures in mind, though. Instead of attempting to be Google killers, these sites have more humble aspirations: to be alternatives to the industry giants.
Real-time searches offer the most potential, Mudd said. If you search Google news, the results will be recent, but not live. That’s where Twitter’s search comes in. It searches the site’s micro-blog posts by the second, allowing users to see what’s buzzing on the Web at any instant.