Voted four times Most Outstanding Search Engine by Search Engine
Watch readers, Google has a well-deserved reputation as the top
choice for those searching the web. The crawler-based service
provides both comprehensive coverage of the web along with great
relevancy. It's highly recommended as a first stop in your hunt for
whatever you are looking for.
Google provides the option to find more than web pages, however.
Using on the top of the search box on the Google home page, you can
easily seek out images from across the web, discussions that are
taking place on Usenet newsgroups, locate news information or
perform product searching. Using the More link provides access to
human-compiled information from the Open Directory (see below), catalog
searching and other services.
Google is also known for the wide range of features it offers, such
as cached links that let you "resurrect" dead pages or see older
versions of recently changed ones. It offers excellent spell
checking, easy access to dictionary definitions, integration of
stock quotes, street maps, telephone numbers and more. See
Google's help page for an entire rundown on some of these features.
The Google Toolbar has also won a popular following for the easy
access it provides to Google and its features directly from the
Internet Explorer browser.
In addition to Google's unpaid editorial results, the company also
operates its own advertising programs. The cost-per-click AdWords
program places ads on Google as well as some of Google's partners.
Similarly, Google is also a provider of unpaid editorial results to
some other search engines. For a list of major partnerships, see
the Search Providers Chart.
Google was originally a Stanford University project by students
Larry Page and Sergey Brin called BackRub. By 1998, the name had
been changed to Google, and the project jumped off campus and became
the private company Google. It remains privately held today.
Getting Listed: Read the Submitting To Google section of Search
Engine Watch's Essentials Of Search Engine Submission guide for more
about being included in Google's editorial results and the Google
AdWords section for more about its paid listings programs.
Search Engine Watch members have access to the How Google
Works section of the web site, which provides in-depth coverage of
the editorial and paid listings processes at Google. Learn more
about becoming a member on the membership information page.
Launched in 1994, Yahoo is the web's oldest "directory," a place
where human editors organize web sites into categories. However, in
October 2002, Yahoo made a giant shift to crawler-based listings for
its main results. These came from Google until February 2004. Now,
Yahoo uses its own search technology. Learn more in this
recent review from our SearchDay newsletter, which also provides
some updated submission details.
In addition to excellent search results, you can use tabs above the
search box on the Yahoo home page to seek images, Yellow Page
listings or use Yahoo's excellent shopping search engine. Or visit
the Yahoo Search home page, where even more specialized search
options are offered.
The Yahoo Directory still survives. You'll notice "category" links
below some of the sites lists in response to a keyword search. When
offered, these will take you to a list of web sites that have been
reviewed and approved by a human editor.
It's also possible to do a pure search of just the human-compiled
Yahoo Directory, which is how the old or "classic" Yahoo used to
work. To do this, search from the Yahoo Directory home page, as
opposed to the regular Yahoo.com home page. Then you'll get both
directory category links ("Related Directory Categories") and
"Directory Results," which are the top web site matches drawn from
all categories of the Yahoo Directory.
Sites pay a fee to be included in the Yahoo Directory's commercial
listings, though they must meet editor approval before being
accepted. Non-commercial content is accepted for free. Yahoo's
content acquisition program also offers paid inclusion, where sites
can also pay to be included in Yahoo's crawler-based results. This
doesn't guarantee ranking, Yahoo promises. The CAP program also
bring in content from non-profit organizations for free.
Like Google, Yahoo sells paid placement advertising links that
appear on its own site and which are distributed to others. Yahoo
purchased Overture in October 2003.
Overture was formerly called GoTo until late 2001. More about it can
be found on the Paid Listings Search Engines page.
Overture purchased AllTheWeb (see below) in March 2003 and acquired
AltaVista (see below) in April 2003. Now Yahoo owns these, gained as
from its purchase of Overture.
Technology AltaVista and AllTheWeb was combined with that of Inktomi,
a crawler-based search engine that grew out UC Berkeley and then
launched as its own company in 1996, to make the current Yahoo
crawler. Yahoo purchased Inktomi in March 2003.
Ask Jeeves initially gained fame in 1998 and 1999 as being the
"natural language" search engine that let you search by asking
questions and responded with what seemed to be the right answer to
In reality, technology wasn't what made Ask Jeeves perform so well.
Behind the scenes, the company at one point had about 100 editors
who monitored search logs. They then went out onto the web and
located what seemed to be the best sites to match the most popular
In 1999, Ask acquired Direct Hit, which had developed the world's
first "click popularity" search technology. Then, in 2001, Ask
acquired Teoma's unique index and search relevancy technology. Teoma
was based upon the clustering concept of subject-specific
Today, Ask depends on crawler-based technology to provide results to
its users. These results come from the Teoma algorithm, now known as
The search engines below are other good choices to consider when
searching the web.
Powered by Yahoo, you may find AllTheWeb a lighter, more
customizable and pleasant "pure search" experience than you get at
Yahoo itself. The focus is on web search, but news, picture, video,
MP3 and FTP search are also offered.
AllTheWeb.com was previously owned by a company called FAST and used
as a showcase for that company's web search technology. That's why
you sometimes may sometimes hear AllTheWeb.com also referred to as
FAST or FAST Search. However, the search engine waspurchased by
search provider Overture (see below) in late April 2003, then later
become Yahoo's property when Yahoo bought Overture. It no longer has
a connection with FAST.
AOL Search provides users with editorial listings that come Google's
crawler-based index. Indeed, the same search on Google and AOL
Search will come up with very similar matches. So, why would you use
AOL Search? Primarily because you are an AOL user. The "internal"
version of AOL Search provides links to content only available
within the AOL online service. In this way, you can search AOL and
the entire web at the same time. The "external" version lacks these
links. Why wouldn't you use AOL Search? If you like Google, many of
Google's features such as "cached" pages are not offered by AOL
HotBot provides easy access to the web's three major crawler-based
search engines: Yahoo, Google and Teoma. Unlike a meta search
engine, it cannot blend the results from all of these crawlers
together. Nevertheless, it's a fast, easy way to get different web
search "opinions" in one place.
HotBot's "choose a search engine" interface was introduced in
December 2002. However, HotBot has a long history as a search brand
before this date.
HotBot debuted in May 1996, it gained a strong following among
serious searchers for the quality and comprehensiveness of its
crawler-based results, which were provided by Inktomi, at the time.
It also caught the attention of experienced web users and techies,
especially for the unusual colors and interface it continues to
HotBot gained more notoriety when it switched over to using Direct
Hit's "clickthrough" results for its main listings in 1999. Direct
Hit was then one of the "hot" search engines that had recently
appeared. Unfortunately, the quality of Direct Hit's results
couldn't match those of another "hot" player that had debuted at the
same time, Google. HotBot's popularity began to drop.
Even worse, HotBot also suffered by being owned by Lycos (now Terra
Lycos). Lycos had acquired HotBot when it purchased Wired Digital in
October 1998. Lycos failed to make search a priority on its flagship
Lycos site as well as HotBot through much of 1999 and 2000, as it
focused instead on adding "portal" features. The company refocused
on search in late 2001, making significant improvements to the Lycos
site and, as noted, reworked the HotBot site at the end of 2002.
The sites below are "major" in the sense that they either still
receive significant amounts of traffic or they've earned a
reputation in the past that still causes some people to consider
them to be important. For various reasons explained below, they are
not among our top search choices. However, certainly feel free to
try them. They could turn out to be top choices for you.
AltaVista opened in December 1995 and for several years was the
"Google" of its day, in terms of providing relevant results and
having a loyal group of users that loved the service.
Sadly, an attempt to turn AltaVista into a portal site in 1998 saw
the company lose track of the importance of search. Over time,
relevancy dropped, as did the freshness of AltaVista's listings and
the crawler's coverage of the web.
Today, AltaVista is once again focused on search. Results come from
Yahoo, and tabs above the search box let you go beyond web search to
find images, MP3/Audio, Video, human category listings and news
results. If you want a lighter-feel than Yahoo but to still have
Yahoo's results, AltaVista is worth considering.
AltaVista was originally owned by Digital, then taken over by
Compaq, when that company purchased Digital in 1998. AltaVista was
later spun off into a private company, controlled by CMGI.
Overture purchasing the search engine in April 2003, then it later
became part of Yahoo when Yahoo bought Overture.
Compared to Google, Yahoo or even Teoma, Gigablast has a tiny index
of the web. However, the service is constantly gaining new and
interesting features. Give it a whirl, if you want to try something
experimental yet dependable. Read more about Gigablast in this
recent interview from our SearchDay newsletter.
Live Search (formerly Windows Live Search) is the name of
Microsoft's web search engine, successor to MSN Search, designed to
compete with the industry leaders Google and Yahoo. The search
engine offers some innovative features, such as the ability to view
additional search results on the same web page (instead of needing
to click through to subsequent search result pages) and the ability
to adjust the amount of information displayed for each search-result
(i.e. just the title, a short summary, or a longer summary). It also
allows the user to save searches and see them updated automatically
The service was previously powered by LookSmart results and gained
top marks for having its own team of editors that monitored the most
popular searches being performed to hand-pick sites believed to be
the most relevant. The system worked well.
LookSmart is primarily a human-compiled directory of web sites. It
gathers its listings in two ways. Commercial sites pay to be listed
in its commercial categories, making the service very much like an
electronic "Yellow Pages." However, volunteer editors at the
LookSmart-owned Zeal directory also catalog sites into
non-commercial categories for free. Though Zeal is a separate web
site, its listings are integrated into LookSmart's results.
LookSmart launched independently in October 1996, was backed by
Reader's Digest for about a year, and then company executives bought
back control of the service.
LookSmart also bought the WiseNut crawler-based search engine in
April 2002. WiseNut's are offered through the LookSmart via its Web
tab above the search box. Unlike its competitors, the WiseNut
crawler has often been out of date, sometimes for months at a time.
Finally, the real gem at LookSmart can be found via its Articles
tab. That provides access to content from thousands of periodicals.
Lycos is one of the oldest search engines on the web, launched in
1994. It ceased crawling the web for its own listings in April 1999
and instead provides access to human-powered results from LookSmart
for popular queries and crawler-based results from Yahoo for others.
"Fast Forward" lets you see search results in one side of your
screen and the actual pages listed in another. Relevant categories
of human-compiled information from the Open Directory appear at the
bottom of the search results page.
Lycos is owned by Terra Lycos, a company formed with Lycos and Terra
Networks merged in October 2000. Terra Lycos also owns the HotBot
search engine described above.
Owned by AOL Time Warner, Netscape Search uses Google for its main
listings, just as does AOL's other major search site, AOL Search. So
why use Netscape Search rather than Google? Unlike with AOL Search,
there's no compelling reason to consider it. The main difference
between Netscape Search and Google is that Netscape Search will list
some of Netscape's own content at the top of its results. Netscape
also has a completely different look and feel than Google. If you
like either of these reasons, then try Netscape Search. Otherwise,
you're probably better off just searching at Google.
The Open Directory uses volunteer editors to catalog the web.
Formerly known as NewHoo, it was launched in June 1998. It was
acquired by AOL Time Warner-owned Netscape in November 1998, and the
company pledged that anyone would be able to use information from
the directory through an open license arrangement.
While you can search at the Open Directory site itself, this is not
recommended. The site has no "backup" results that kick in should
there not be a match in the human-compiled database. In addition,
the ranking of sites during keyword searching is poor, while
alphabetical ordering is used when you choose to "browse" categories
Instead, to scan the valuable information compiled by the Open
Directory, consider using the version offered by Google, the Google
Directory. Here, keyword searching uses Google's refined relevancy
algorithms and makes use of link analysis to better propel good
pages from the human database to the top. In addition, when viewing
sites by category, they will be listed in PageRan korder, which
means the most popular sites based on analyzing links from across
the web will be listed first.