Other Search Engines Are Available: More Google Alternatives

In our previous post, this blog looked at the high profile launch of Cuil, the latest search engine to compete with Google. Despite an aesthetically pleasing interface, it received a less than lukewarm reception on Search Engine Consultants’ Weblog and national publications such as Micro Mart. Within this entry, Stuart Vallantine looks at 10 other English language search engines, lesser known than Google.

Though the vox populi associate the internet with Microsoft and Google, there was a time before Sergey Brin and Larry Page’s wunderkind ruled the roost. Yahoo! and Alta Vista was King, the average modem dialled up at 14.4k baud, plus amateur web designers were in thrall of animated email icons and flashing text. We also thought it was a good idea to build splash pages.

Instead of the red giants and blue super giants, we are focusing on the search engine equivalent of the white dwarf stars in this universe known as cyberspace.

A voyage into uncharted waters

Unlike Google and Yahoo which use their own search results, some search engines cluster their results from other search engine directories. For instance, Dogpile sources the pick of its results from the main search engines. This list of 10 search engines will include those within the latter category as well as the former. To ensure a fair test I chose to search for one keyword phrase only which is the U2 album from 1987 (The Joshua Tree).

  1. Wikia Search;
  2. Fazzle;
  3. Gigablast;
  4. Guruji;
  5. Clusty;
  6. Kartoo;
  7. Turbo 10;
  8. Mahalo;
  9. Hakia;
  10. Blinkx;

First up is Wikia Search which is part of Jimmy Wales’ Wikipedia Foundation. This search engine is open source and its users are free to edit some part of the results. Looking for the U2 album, the highest placed entry was a Wikipedia account. Top of the tree was a U2 tribute act. Its users can delete any entries deemed inappropriate, or highlight and label favoured sites. Left of each entry is the site’s ‘favourites’ icon.

Fazzle is a meta crawler search engine which sources its results from the leading search engines. The best pick is the one which is deemed of most relevance. For me this wasn’t so, and my favoured entry was 10th (U2’s official website). The Joshua Tree National Park came top, with sponsored Yahoo! links occupying 2nd and 4th places. It does have some neat features like being able to preview each entry. Despite a number of relevant results, some (irrelevant to the search) sponsored links placed within the same results as the rest of the entries is not a good idea.

Gigablast has its own search engine spider like Google and Yahoo and styles itself on offering its users relevant results at the highest speed possible, even on dial-up connections. Gigablast stuck to its remit by returning me two Wikipedia entries on U2’s album and its accompanying tour. Above the main results section in a rounded box are links to related results, such as ‘Bono’, ‘Palm Springs’ and ‘Joshua Tree National Park’.

Aimed at the Indian market, Guruji’s design has a familiar air to it: the front end and inner pages are similar to that well known behemoth’s search engine in Stanford. The first entry is an article of the future of Joshua trees, with the U2 album in 3rd place. Guruji is also available for use in Punjabi, Urdu and Gujarati.

Owned by Vivisimo, Clusty is similar to Fazzle and Gigablast in the sense it clusters its results. This function is more detailed, in that clusters are available for subject area, the number of search engines each entry is found in, and by domain. Though the national park came top of the results, U2’s album (and the tribute band) was well represented in the results. Unlike Fazzle there are no sponsored links. On the whole, Clusty is well designed and uncluttered. There is also an option to reduce or increase the font size.

For a different experience, Kartoo is a visual search engine with results displayed in non linear form. This uses Adobe Flash technology, though a traditional HTML version is available. The latter version has the same set of results as the Flash version. This too is a meta crawler search engine like Clusty. Results are patchy with all but one on the first page being shopping sites. The one exception is the Wikipedia entry. Sadly, Kartoo is only good as a toy rather than a serious search engine. Sorry.

Aiming to find sites which over search engines cannot reach, Turbo 10 works on similar lines to Clusty. Graphically attractive (if somewhat dated), it enables you categories sites by topic clusters or search engines, with each entry accompanied with a thumbnail screenshot. In terms of relevant results, Turbo 10 enabled to find what I was looking for with good coverage of the U2 album. The only downside of this site is the top result being a sponsored link. B+ for good effort.

Mahalo takes the meta crawling search engine into the Web 2.0 era with a combination of listings sourced by the main search engines and related Mahalo pages. Unlike traditional search engines, it is wholly human powered. User can also create ‘Mahalo pages’ on their favoured subject area like Squidoo (registration required). Search engine results are placed after Mahalo’s links. A choice of popular search engines is available to view separately within a frame.

Using semantic search, Hakia defines its results on three criteria: credible sources, currency and relevance. With the Joshua tree being more than just a U2 album, the tree itself is denoted as the top result. The Wikipedia article on the album is not in the Top 20 results.

For the final search engine, I have plumped for Blinkx, a search engine which has over 26 million hours of video. This time, the album is well represented with video clips from YouTube and other video sharing sites including Vimeo and ITN’s own sources. The aesthetics are very well polished and easy on the eye (except for the first page video wall). Within the results page, a preview of each video is played in the top left. It’s a great source for viewing pop videos, including those other than U2’s.


I hope this little article proves that other search engines are available. We may have heard of the likes of YouTube, Google and Yahoo!, but less of these alternatives. Sometimes, I feel it is always worth comparing the results of our favoured search engine with another one. With tabbed browsing common on modern day web browsers, there’s no excuse.

If anybody asks me if I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, I can tell you that in 9 out of 10 pages I actually did, contrary to Bono’s protestations.

Stuart Vallantine, Thursday 21 August 2008