Contrary to what the average Internet user would expect, the field of Internet search is not a closed subject. Just because we have one dominant mega-corporation (we needn’t name here), and a couple of second-place stragglers in Bing and Yahoo, doesn’t mean there isn’t room to improve search.
The science of search engines is related to the field of library science because its simple goal is to curate and organize information and make it accessible as quickly and efficiently as possible to any user. The sheer size and scale of the Internet makes this a huge undertaking. Merely storing an index of the web at large is a matter of worldwide, redundant data centers. Then the problem further breaks down into resolving queries and delivering results, according to an intricate system of weighted algorithms.
Even if the general market is pretty much dusted and put away, there’s still ample room for search engines with a niche interest. So if you’re not having luck with the default choices or just want to view the web from a new perspective, give one of these a try. You just might find a new perspective on the web you never thought existed.
Yandex is still waiting for its day in the spotlight, while much of the discussion of mainstream search engines seem to overlook it. Yandex has an international and unfiltered flavor to its results. It’s also just as fast and comprehensive as any other top search engine, but its returned queries are sometimes strikingly different. Great for getting a different perspective on things.
https://www.wolframalpha.com/ is not a general-purpose search engine as we’ve come to expect, but a “computational knowledge engine” instead. It’s built on the Wolfram Mathematica toolkit, part of Wolfram’s research industry. Instead of indexing the web at large, it indexes scholarly resources like encyclopedias, wikis, factbooks, dictionaries, surveys, and so on. It also packs some specialized calculators into its engine. Wolfram Alpha is ideal to use for college students, journalists, or professionals who need engineering queries met quick.
HotBot is actually a longstanding web veteran, descended from a 1996 directory-based engine which incorporated Inktomi, DMOZ, and LookSmart. It was originally owned by HotWired web magazine. It has since passed through Lycos’ hands and various other corporate trades. It exists today as a reborn search aggregator powered by Bing, with a focus on avoiding security issues with malware sites which might compromise your computer.
DuckDuckGo has emerged in recent years as the favored search engine of privacy advocates. https://duckduckgo.com/ the equivalent of “incognito mode” for web search, able to strip away personalized results, cookie-tracking, advertising algorithms, and other annoyances. It is a search aggregator that draws a wide net of resources from other engines and serves them as anonymously as it can. People who are concerned about being snooped by government or enterprise alike go here.
BoardReader is an example of a very narrow niche that can fill a specific need. It focuses exclusively on searching Internet message boards, forums, blogs, comments sections, and other public-accessible discussion areas. http://boardreader.com/ has a couple of unique applications: It filters out everything but the “man on the street” point of view, showing what people are buzzing about. It would also be ideal for investigative work concerning Internet subcultures or the activities of some accounts.
Hot.com is another niche interest. It specializes in finding racy content and dating profiles. https://hot.com bills itself as bringing “hot girls” and everything else under the sun using hot as an adjective. Not much more need be said, as most readers should probably understand the general gist of it by now.
Shodan is another specialized tool which doesn’t index web pages at all, but instead finds devices. It’s geared for security researchers and Internet mechanics of every level. Shodan finds things like webcams, recorders, routers, servers, control systems, industrial machinery, and other things the casual web visitor isn’t supposed to see. It’s a fantastic security exploration tool, making it easy to identify exposed security-sensitive devices. Hackers of all “hat colors” swear by it.