Searching for Internet
life beyond Google
by Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First
published in Business
7-13, 2005; Issue #815, High Tech Office column
People used to have preferences among Internet search engines, or
recommended "metasearch" services that combined multiple search sites.
For a while, my favourite was hotbot.com, because it offered users the
ability to easily filter results: only Canadian pages since 2003, for
Those in the know shared tips: how to put multiple words in quotes or
manipulate plus and minus signs to get the most useful results.
Google changed all of this, offering an interface that, magically, just
works. Over time, Google has added services: a downloadable toolbar and
desktop search, news headlines, local search, translation tools,
shopping and maps. Along the way, it's become a verb: you "google"
something by looking it up online. Googling "Alan Zisman" got 8,480
hits. Other search engines haven't gone away, however. Though it gets
its results from Google, Amazon's A9 service (a9.com) lets you view
several searches at once, arranging the results in collapsible columns.
You can annotate your searches, saving them online along with bookmarks
and diary entries. Loyal users earn Amazon discounts. (105 hits for
The most powerful search engine of the early years, AltaVista is now
owned by Yahoo and uses Yahoo's search results. There's a Google-like
look, which has cleaned up what was a cluttered start page. The ability
to filter image or music searches by file type or size can be useful,
and the translation tools remain usable for translating a short phrase
or an entire webpage. (13,000 hits for "Alan Zisman".)
Like its parent organization, AOLSearch (search.aol.com) is long on
user-friendly. As you type, a "smartbox" suggests what it thinks you
may be looking for. When your results appear, there's a handy list of
related searches in a column on the left. (Though it claims to be
"enhanced by Google" there were only about 80 hits for "Alan Zisman".)
AskJeeves (www.ask.com) started out promising "natural language"
searches: just type a question. The problem, however, was that it
didn't work very well. Still, AskJeeves keeps innovating, with Smart
Search options for maps, movies, phone listings, stock prices and
weather. (128 hits for "Alan Zisman".)
Looksmart (search.looksmart.com) promises five million articles "not
found in any other search engine" and lets you narrow results by topic.
It may be worth a try to see if something worthwhile shows up (though
my brief tests weren't promising: 14 hits for "Alan Zisman".)
Internet classic Lycos hasn't adopted Google's clean lines. Its main
search results now come from AskJeeves, while its news search
repackages Google results. A nice discussion search feature peeks in a
variety of online forums. Personal searches offer online biographies
and resumés along with (not free) background checks. (128 hits
for "Alan Zisman".)
Microsoft's MSN Search (search.msn.com) offers a downloadable toolbar
and a desktop search program, along with links to Microsoft's Encarta
online encyclopedia. (A hefty 4,214 hits for your humble scribe.)
Another old standby, Yahoo keeps a cluttered look, a wealth of features
and more users than any service except Google. Its downloadable toolbar
is bundled with Adobe Reader and Macromedia Flash, and it has strong
customization and multimedia and local searches. (13,400 hits for "Alan
While Google and Yahoo remain the most useful overall Internet search
engines, you may find the special features of some of the other
services waorth using. There is, it appears, life after Google.