From:         Bob Rankin 
Subject:      TOURBUS - 25 MAY 2005 - Search Engine News


The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

Tired of the same old search engine? In today's TOURBUS you'll find reviews of some new Internet search tools with all the bells and whistles, and one to avoid. Read on!


You may be surprised that I'm starting off a Tourbus article by recommending that you visit a Microsoft website, but here goes. Gates and Co. have come up with some pretty tough competition for Google, with the new MSN Search. MSN Search provides search for web pages, news or images, as well as interactive maps and access to the Encarta encyclopedia.

My testing shows that the relevancy of search results is excellent. Search for "tourbus", "copper fountains" and "send flowers" at MSN. Thanks, Bill! Those #1 listings are all my sites. But none of them show up in the top ten at Google. What's up with that?

MSN Search -



Exalead is a new search engine from France that sports a variety of powerful search options that you won't find at the big name sites. Proximity searching lets you search for words within 16 words of each other, and not necessarily in the order you specify. For example, searching for "bob (NEAR) tourbus" will find a page containing "Tourbus creators Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen offer lively, witty commentary." Wow, throw a little flattery into the technology and that's one tasty soup!

You can also search with word truncation, so "offic*" will find officer, official, officious, etc. Other search engines will do simple word stemming, such as adding or removing an "s", but this goes far beyond that. Can't spell for beans? Try the phonetic spelling and approximate spelling options. Much to my amusment, the phrase "rankine torubus" brings up as the first hit when the approximate spelling feature is selected.

And geeks rejoice! Exalead does regular expression searching, which is an extremely potent (and extremely confusing) pattern matching doohickey. For example, /IBM[0-9]{4}/ matches IBM3090 or IBM8514, and /ex...s..n/ matches extension, expansion, or excursion.

Exalead -



KartOO is a metasearch engine with a visual display. KartOO launches your query to a set of search engines, compiles the results and shows them in a series of interactive maps. In these maps, websites are represented by larger or smaller sized pages, depending on relevance. When you move the pointer over these pages, the related keywords are illuminated and a brief description of the site appears on the left side of the screen. You can refine your search by clicking entries in a subject tree.

One nice feature of Kartoo is the option to select a specific set of search engines for your query. The animated genie is a teensy bit annoying, but this search tool is worth a try.

KartOO -



Why does this name conjure up images of an Italian wedding? Vivisimo wants to help you solve the information overload problem that occurs when you get thousands of results from a web search. By categorizing search results, they can become more meaningful and actionable. Vivisimo uses "clustering" to organize search results into titled folders to build a clearer picture for searchers.

There are several of these "information relationship" type of search engines available, and I think they are most useful when you're doing research on a broad topic, as opposed to looking for a specific site.

Vivisimo -



Here's one to avoid. Kaxy promises "Web Page Preview", a feature that's supposed to give you a thumbnail view of resultant websites, along with the search descriptions. But it doesn't work unless you download a plugin called WebSnap from Sequoia Entertainment. Does that sound ominous to you, too? My advice: Just Say No to anything that wants you to download a plugin.

Oh, and even worse, I found instances of apparent link hijacking in the Kaxy search results. Try a search for "send flowers" at Kaxy and look at item #5 in the hits. The description and address shown are for my site (#1 for that term at MSN), but the title and the actual link take you to 800-Flowers through a paid search link. Nasty! Want another example? Search for "website hosting" (also #1 at MSN) and you'll see the link for actually takes you somewhere else, through a paid-for link. Doesn't seem like this is a fluke.

Kaxy -

Editor's Note: Understandably, the folks from Kaxy aren't very happy with my review. They claim that the incorrect/jumbled links are MSN's fault, and they no longer include MSN search results by default. But if you check the MSN box and do a search, the link problem is still there. And if you pull up MSN's RSS feed for the same search query (send flowers), you can see the problem does NOT occur in that feed.

They also claim that the plugin is only used to generate the thumbnail views, and contains no spyware. That may be true, but other search engines (see Exalead above) offer thumbnail views WITHOUT the need for a plugin. I still strongly caution users against installing ANY web browser plugins, it's just a bad practice unless you can be 100% sure what that software is doing on your machine.

Based on the fact that reps from Kaxy contacted me personally to offer up this info, I'll retract my assertion that there's something "evil" going on with their search results, but clearly there is a problem, as evidenced by the RSS feed output mentioned above.

The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

You may be happy with your favorite search engine, but are you sure you're getting the best results? Try some of these up-and-coming search tools and you might find they do a better job for some or all of your queries. That's all for now, see you next time! -- Bob Rankin

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