Sun, Apr 17, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Latest innovations make new search engines addictive

DPA , Washington

In the beginning, there was the search engine. You typed in a search term, clicked Search, and were presented with tens of thousands of links. It was good.

But not good enough. No one has time to look through tens of thousands of links. So search engines have been scrambling to provide innovations that get you information faster, more precisely, and more enjoyably than ever before. Some are succeeding, and some are just innovating, coming up with new twists on search technology that, at worst, are interesting and, at best, give you a compelling way to find exactly what you're looking for in the least amount of time. The best innovations are downright addictive.

Take Answers.com (www.answers.com), for instance. Instead of providing you with a list of links, Answers.com gives you "answers." You are given intelligent results from actual Web pages based upon your search words -- and you don't have to click any links to get the results.

Let's say you're looking for information about Ernest Hemingway. Type the search term "Ernest Hemingway" into Answers.com, click Go, and almost immediately you'll get an overview of Hemingway's life, his writings, important dates, a photograph, and biographical selections from several sources on the Internet. All of the information is presented stylishly, too, in a form that's appealing to the eye. Each section of information is annotated at the end with links for further material on the Internet. And to get this information, you've had to click no links.

Search engine newcomer Clusty (www.clusty.com), operated by Vivisimo, offers Web site previews when you click on a magnifying glass image under each returned link. Clusty believes that it can dramatically improve search by doing the work of organizing, or clustering, search results for you.

In Clusty, a search for French philosopher and author Albert Camus, for instance, results in your usual list of links.

But alongside those links, a "cluster panel" appears with topics such as "existentialism," "quotes," "bibliography," and "myth of Sisyphus." You can cluster any search term by topic, source, or URL (Web address).

With the amount of innovation occurring in the search engine field these days, you'd never know that the dot-com boom supposedly came to an end just after 2000. And the best news for Internet users everywhere is that while Google and Yahoo are still far and away the most popular search engines, smaller newcomers are providing head-turning functionality that's sure to keep the leaders looking over their shoulders.

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