By 6 August 2008 | Categories: netsmart


In the October 2006 edition of TechSmart I wrote what turned out to be my most popular column that year. It was titled “The best education tool in the world!” and it dealt exclusively with Google. More specifically, how to get the most out of Google. Since then a lot on the surface of Internet search has stayed the same. The Internet is still easily the best, most incredible technological leveller, and anything from home projects to school projects to business ventures can be researched like never before. But the Internet is constantly growing. It grows by Gigabytes in seconds. The haystack is ­getting bigger, and you still need to find your needle of ­information. So how do you do it? And it is here that we’re ­seeing some serious change on the Internet, in the area of search technology. What exactly is a search engine? Essentially, a search engine is a web server based program that searches for websites based on words that you used as your search term. Crawler-based search engines such as Google have automatic programs that continuously “crawl” (i.e. surf) the Internet for websites and record them in their database. When you come along and type in your search term the search engine will look through its databases to find what it is you are looking for, and displays that for you as your results. Keep in mind that this is a very simplified explanation and search engines include some incredibly detailed processes and methods, but that is a bare bones look at how search engines work. So if search engines generally work the same way, then what has changed so much? What’s the hoopla about? The big change in search engines has been in how your results are shown. Its here we’re seeing some amazing things. The following are some of my favourite visual search engines. Not only do they help you find what you’re looking for, but its fun just using them.

•    Viewzi

This search engine is visually stunning and is a whole new way to experience search. Instead of one big list, you get visual views tailored for the content you are looking for. Viewzi’s view picker determines what your search term means and shows a list of views with each custom tailored to what you are searching for. You simply have to try this out.

•    Cuil

Cuil, pronounced “Cool” in Gaelic (no kidding!), was founded by a group of ex-Google employees. Cuil’s results are presented in a magazine-like format instead of just a vertical set of links, with photos spread horizontally across the page.

•    Quintura

The Quintura approach to search is a fascinating one. In ­addition to search results you get a visual map of words ­related to your search. You then click on the words to refine results.

•    Searchme

This search engine works by letting you see as you search. As you type, categories relating to your search appear. Pick one and you get screen shots of pages matching your search. You then scroll through these screenshots and click on what you’re looking for.

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