Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Life beyond Google

Google, the world's favourite search engine, so ubiquitous that it has its own verb. Rebecca Armstrong presents the alternatives

Do you use the same search engine for everything? Whether you're after cheap music or breaking news, Rebecca Armstrong clicks on the alternatives

Anoox

www.anoox.com



WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT?

The human touch - Anoox uses people power to generate search results, though of course computers come into it. It is also run on a not-for-profit basis - advertising covers its costs.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Users can join the Anoox Community and vote on the computer-generated search results. The votes are logged and help to determine the sites that are found in future. In other words, it operates via the democratic principle of majority rule.

HAS IT BEEN AROUND FOR LONG?

Fully launched in April 2005, Annox was making waves as a pre-release " beta" site long before that, thanks to its focus on majority votes and advertising rates that are much cheaper than Google or Yahoo!. Based in San Francisco, most of the development for the site happens in Europe.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Anoox gives 1,826 results for "Tony Blair" and returns the list in 0.048 seconds. These are results with personality - the first is for www.newleft.net, the second for www.impeachblair.org and the third for a Blair lookalike.

CAN YOU LOOK FOR PICTURES?

There is no option to search for images, and a request for "Tony Blair and images" seems to confuse it. It comes up with a different set of results to my earlier search but its findings aren't what I'm looking for.

IS IT EASY TO USE?

A plain site that is very basic, and the flashing circle of world flags that appears when a search is taking place is rather winning. Hi-tech fans may not be convinced.

WHO'S IT BEST FOR?

Socialist surfers - the not-for-profit stance may not spell the end of capitalism but the one-person, one-vote approach brings democracy to web searches.

Live.com

www.live.com

WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT?

Live.com provides more than just web searches - here you get shopping, e-mail, blogs and the latest information from the internet, too, all in one slick but heavily branded package.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Live.com is Microsoft's MSN with a make-over. It's billed as a combination of internet software and services designed to work together to give users everything they need from one site. Live.com lets users watch out for new content on their favourite sites by providing RSS feeds.

HAS IT BEEN AROUND FOR LONG?

On 12 September 2006, Live.com officially came out of pre-release "beta" stage. In the following few days, MSN Search began redirecting to the new Windows Live Search.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Predictable but fast. A search for Happy Feet , this year's big festive film, gave a list of the usual sites and trailers, then 10,711,177 pages of stuff, plus sponsored links. Happy Feet slippers, anyone?

CAN YOU LOOK FOR PICTURES?

Very good. I type in "The Horrors band" and get 97 images, mostly of the group I was looking for, who are pretty small. Move the cursor over each picture and it enlarges, giving information about the size and date of the picture. There is also a list of links to related topics on the right.

IS IT EASY TO USE?

Super-smooth. Anyone used to Microsoft's other sites will feel at home. It's very user-friendly, but Mac users may struggle.

WHO'S IT BEST FOR?

Windows lovers, online novices, people with MSN Messenger and anyone who still has a Hotmail account.



Newsnow

www.newsnow.co.uk

WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT?

One of the UK's most popular news portals, NewsNow is a provider of internet press cuttings and real-time news from over 139 countries. It also has newsfeeds on topics such entertainment, football and business.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

NewsNow automatically searches 27,310 news sources every five minutes, including international, national and regional titles, newswires and press releases.

HAS IT BEEN AROUND FOR LONG?

Set up in 1997, NewsNow has more than 1.1 million users worldwide. It also offers corporate services for companies that pay to receive market intelligence and competitor tracking.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

The free service can only search single words in headlines, so "Augusto Pinochet" gives no results but "Pinochet" yields four articles from the last 10 to 15 minutes, two of which are in English. There are 30 from the past hour.

CAN YOU LOOK FOR PICTURES?

There is no facility to search for images on NewsNow, although the websites it links to may include pictures. That said, some of the smaller organisations it links to don't seem to use pictures at all.

IS IT EASY TO USE?

The homepage of the site is busy but clear to use and read. Newsfeeds appear on the left of the page with search results in the centre.

WHO'S IT BEST FOR?

News junkies, students and freelance journalists. For those with corporate cash behind them, the paid-for searches are very in-depth.

Quintura

www.quintura.com

WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT?

This is a visual search engine that returns results as a list but also as a " tag cloud". The cloud contains the search terms surrounded by related tags. The results closest to the terms are in bigger, bolder fonts.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Quintura's searches are based on advanced algorithms of artificial intelligence (neural networks). The algorithms simulate the way the of human brain works.

HAS IT BEEN AROUND FOR LONG?

Powered by Yahoo, Quintura was released in November 2005. This year, new features were added, including personalised search preferences and access to other people's search scopes.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Excellent. Type in La Scala Milan , and you get 119,000 results, and the top one takes you straight to a ticket website. You may end up looking at the list rather than using the cloud.

CAN YOU LOOK FOR PICTURES?

Not so hot. I type in "Christmas decorations Times Square" and get absolutely zero results. "Times Square" brings up 1,000, mainly old, pictures.

IS IT EASY TO USE?

It's simple to use, requires no sign-in and gives results that are comprehensive, though often off-the-wall. There are two search options, one for web searches and one for pictures - nothing too confusing here.

WHO'S IT BEST FOR?

Lateral thinkers who like to research around a topic and anyone who prefers a visual approach instead of merely a lists of links.

Swamii

www.swamii.com

WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT?

Sorts results with the latest sites at the top. It also keeps on searching - you can build a list of "interests", and every time you visit, it displays all the new information on that subject.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Instead of just indexing web pages, Swamii interweaves sources by searching the news, television, blogs and job sites for matches.

HAS IT BEEN AROUND FOR LONG?

Swamii was in a pre-release "Beta" version from 1 September and was released to the public two weeks ago. CEO Kalem Fletcher wanted to call the site Yoda.com but found that the domain name had been taken by a cat owner whose pet was called after the Jedi master. Swamii business, a corporate site, will launch next year.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Typing in "Litvinenko" gives me 336 results, the top two of which were posted online within the last minute.

CAN YOU LOOK FOR PICTURES?

Not directly, though you do find up-to-date pictures. Handy if, say, you're looking to copy a celebrity haircut.

IS IT EASY TO USE?

The interface is straightforward and user friendly, although users have to register to use the service and enter a password each time they go on to the site.

WHO'S IT BEST FOR?

Anyone who wants to keep track of a current event as it unfolds, or web users who want their searches absolutely up-to-the-minute.

Ask.com

www.ask.com

WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT?

A site that allows users to type in questions written in proper sentences, rather than just using search terms.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Ask.com answers questions posed in natural language, making it perfect for web novices, and uses the popularity of subject-specific links to gauge the authority of answers.

HAS IT BEEN AROUND FOR LONG?

Founded in Berkley, California, in 1996 the site started life as Askjeeves.com, offering the services of a virtual butler. In February this year, he retired.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Type in "What is the world's tallest mountain?" and 251,200 pages come back. The first tells me the answer is Everest while the second two say Mauna Kea, on Hawaii. So, not exactly fool-proof.

CAN YOU LOOK FOR PICTURES?

It's a bit confusing, but typing in "What does the latest Aston Martin look like" brings up a picture of the car from Casino Royale.

IS IT EASY TO USE?

A simple page invites users to ask a question then either search the web or just UK pages.

WHO'S IT BEST FOR?

The nervous or easily frightened internet explorer. Ask.com steers clear of offering users endless services and is a gentle introduction to searching.

Google

www.google.com



WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT?

The world's favourite search engine, so ubiquitous that it has its own verb. As well as web searches, Google offers images, instant messaging, news and " Froogle" shopping services, plus Google Earth, an interactive mapping service of the world, GMail free e-mail and Google Labs, a site devoted to beta-testing new products. The site even has its own shop, selling Google pens and shirts.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

It's based on the idea of bibliometrics: assessing the importance of any given article or piece of information purely by measuring how often other people mention it. Google does not search the internet - it searches the index of words on webpages for the relevant terms, measures the relevance, and lists the pages, with the highest score at the top.

HAS IT BEEN AROUND FOR LONG?

Google began life in January 1996 as a research project created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two PhD students at Stanford University, California.The domain name Google.com was registered in 1997 and has made $7.14bn in revenue this year.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Beth Ditto is set to hit the big time soon. Google shows 344,000 results in 0.08 seconds. Sounds promising.

CAN YOU LOOK FOR PICTURES?

A search for Zara Phillips gives me 628 hits in 0.06 seconds. It's everything a royal-watcher could want, and you can even select high, medium and low resolution images.

IS IT EASY TO USE?

Simple, uncluttered and very easy. When set as a home page, users can customise Google to give them news updates, horoscopes and weather forecasts. A site that can be as simple or as complex as your wish.

WHO'S IT BEST FOR?

It's the first port of call for most web users thanks to its fast, vast searches and wide range of services. Not so great for Chinese internet users, as Google has sided with the Chinese government in limiting freedom of speech in the country.



Yahoo

www.yahoo.com



WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT?

Yahoo! is reportedly the most visited website around, with more than 412 million users. Offers a range of services including e-mail.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

By buying up previously independent companies, Yahoo! has become more than a web directory. It uses a free web-hosting service from GeoCities, and has partnerships with BT and AT&T.

HAS IT BEEN AROUND FOR LONG?

Started life in California in March 1995. It was originally called " Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web", but became Yahoo! shortly afterwards and was launched to the public in April 1996. Was the No 1 search engine until Google stole its thunder.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

A search for "Nintendo Wii" returns 62,200,000 hits in 0.03 seconds. The first is a link to a Yahoo! site where people can try (and probably fail) to buy a Wii console, the second is Nintendo's site and the third is Wikipedia.

CAN YOU LOOK FOR PICTURES?

Looking for a picture of Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa brings up 19,155 results. The first page gives me what I need.

IS IT EASY TO USE?

Easy to use with a list of search options - including photos and sport - and links to Yahoo! mail and instant messaging.

WHO'S IT BEST FOR?

Like its arch-rival Google, Yahoo! isn't always the friend of democracy - it has also failed to challenge censorship in China. For everyone else, Yahoo! offers a reliable if unexciting way to navigate the internet.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk