My original Treasure Hunt column many, many months ago introduced several search engines that were alternatives to the Google-centric mindset of Internet queries and this month I think it is time to re-visit the topic. Not that I have anything against Google, but the increasing number of paid listings and the increasing use and sophistication of search engine optimization techniques means that the list of returns we get when we google aren’t as useful as they could be sometimes. So here are some alternatives for searching. The key word here is “visual” and if you start to make more use of these engines, you may find yourself getting out of your Google habit.
First up is a search engine that I introduced before but it deserves a re-mention. Wolfram Alpha doesn’t even call itself a search engine. It is instead a “computational knowledge engine.” What does that mean? Well, it means mostly that it doesn’t work the same way as a regular search engine. But type in “Temperature in Yokohama” to see a quick example of what it does do. Or type in your birthday to see how many days old you are and what was happening at the time. One of the things to keep in mind with Wolphram Alpha is that it is improving all the time and what it doesn’t do well now, it will likely do well sometime in the future.
Now let’s get really visual. Spezify is a visual search engine that returns a wonderful collage of visual links for your search. The search results are often surprising and this is a great way to search if you are not sure of what you are after.
Viewzi is a little more organized than Spezify. The returns are shown as text in organized boxes. Roll over then to see the page the information came from. At the top of the page you can select how you want the search results to come up: web shot, simple text, power grid, timeline, site info, photo tag cloud, video, etc.—about 15 options in all. Very nice.
Another visual search engine is Search-cube but I found that it looks kind of cool but is difficult to use. Give it a try and see what you think.