DESTINATIONS: Not your same old search engine
Friday, June 30th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
In the never-ending quest to find the perfect search engine, we went back to a trusted source, Danny Sullivan's Search Engine Watch, to find that one online tool that gets the exact results we want every time. When Mr. Sullivan didn't come up with that one-search-fits-all engine, we decided to discuss a few of the new, interesting ones that he keeps track of so well. For those who want to check out all the engines listed in his pages, go to www.searchenginewatch.com
On the ever-growing list of search engines designed to block objectionable search returns - mainly pornography and hate-oriented material - CleanSearch started up recently with this goal in mind. Although it bans ads that link to nudie pictures, we're not sure how it can bar access to harmless pages that allow such ads. Nonetheless, we tried a healthy handful of double entendres and euphemisms and downright nasties to test the capability here. Downright nastiness was rejected immediately, and euphemisms and double meanings didn't fare well either, as the engine seemed to ignore the naughty combinations and still search the terms in as wholesome a way as possible. Good work, people.
Run by the longtime search gurus at AltaVista, this is a lightning quick results-bringer that doesn't throw in portal clutter such as specialty groups, subject headings and streaming advertisements. In other words, this thing gets down to business. When we plugged in backache treatments, the site took about 30 seconds to bring back thousands of hits, as you would expect on such a broad topic. The first few pages linked to treatment programs for all types of pains from the neck down and included a range of hits from surgery pros and cons to holistic healing to experimental treatments. The site reminded us of another efficient engine, Google.
Tired of trying to contact, say, the official Web site of a brand-name electronics manufacturer to see if its price for a product is cheaper than one sold through a middle man? Well, RealNames can get you there - although you still might not get the price you want. Just plug in the company or its product, and the engine works to get you to the source without wading through every site that mentions the merchandise. We tried it on Lawnboys and Game Boys to see if it worked. Lawnboy bounced right back with the lawn mower manufacturer's site, and Game Boy brought results that helped us find where to buy it, how to play it - even how to cheat at playing it.
To be frank, we're wary of any search engine that doesn't have a little box to let us type in our own keywords. Choosing your own keywords seems to be an inalienable right of the Internet. We don't think that Top9 is trying to pull any fast ones here, since the site is a Web ranking - or popularity - directory in 14 general categories.
That's quite a feat in itself, we'd say, that the entire World Wide Web can be boiled down into 14 categories. The site works well for what it is and serves a function as to where everyone else is looking to buy cars, get tax advice or grab up free software.
The hosts here admit that their site is "a little different to use" than other search engines. The opening page is a plain list of the 100 most-used keywords on the site and a search box. Visitors either start with the list or plug in their own keywords and whittle down in that method, choosing another set of keywords culled from pages with the original keyword until they get where they're going - or collapse. At each stage of this process, the number of pages with the designated keywords is posted next to the words in parentheses, so searchers know when to stop and link into the pages. That's different, all right. Don't worry: The first trip here is very unsettling.
Why would anyone want headlines in almost 300 categories from more than 1,500 sources? Because, the hosts say, this site makes it easy to muddle through what they call the world's largest collection of Web feeds, smarty pants. Each headline posted here - all dated and sourced - links directly back to the Web page from which the story originated in a pop-up window. When you're done, close the window and move automatically back into the headlines again - and again. News junkies love this site, and we highly recommend a browsing session for those running a little low on current events.