ClickZ's sister site, Search Engine Watch, released its annual list of outstanding Web search services for 2003. Your favorites are among them, but there were also surprises and controversial predictions for the coming year.
Coauthor: Chris Sherman
For voting methodology, please see part one.Best Meta Search Engine
This category recognizes outstanding performance in helping Internet users meta search -- gathering results from many Web search engines with one service.
Dogpile takes top honors this year, both in the popular vote and with Search Engine Watch's editors. It garnered 27 percent of the 570 votes cast for best meta search engine.
Dogpile has always been a popular choice among readers, but it's only in the past year the service has addressed some major shortcomings. What's more, Dogpile streamlined its interface and added some nifty new features that make it a standout in the meta search engine category.
The new interface features cleaner, easier-to-read result listings. Dogpile also offers a new option for viewing results in addition to its traditional way of grouping up to 10 results from each underlying engine. The new option allows you to sort results by relevance -- in essence, listing the results the most search engines "voted for" as the top of the list.
Also new are clustered result links that allow you to refine your search simply by clicking on automatically generated categories related to your query. The technology is provided by Vivísimo (our second place choice) and really helps you narrow your options by letting you drill down into narrower subtopics without having to use advanced search tools.
Perhaps most important, Dogpile now clearly labels sponsored results. Better, every sponsored result is clearly marked. In the past, we decided Dogpile (and some other meta search engines) would be ineligible to win as we felt it did a poor job of delineating and disclosing paid listings from editorial matches. By clearly labeling every sponsored search result as a paid advertisement, we feel Dogpile has gone beyond U.S. Federal Trade Commission recommendations issued to search engines in 2002, and set a new disclosure standard all search engines should emulate.
Dogpile is one of four meta search engines operated by InfoSpace. All use the same underlying technology, but each has a unique interface. The other three properties scored well, with MetaCrawler getting 9 percent of the vote and Excite and WebCrawler each claiming 6 percent.
Second Place: Vivísimo
Second-place winner Vivísimo received 18 percent of the votes in this category. Although Vivísimo won the best meta search award for the previous two years, we gave it second place this year for several reasons.
First, the site is intended as more of a technology showcase than a destination Web site. Second, the number of engines Vivísimo searches declined this year, and these are sources that for the most part use indexes provided by others.
Vivísimo currently only searches MSN (Inktomi), Netscape (Google), Lycos (AlltheWeb), LookSmart, and Overture. It does offer a unique advanced search form, allowing users to meta-search and get clustered results from a number of news sources and specialized databases, such as FirstGov, Business.com, and PubMed.
Honorable Mention: Mamma.com
Mamma is our runner up, gaining 6 percent of the winner vote, placing it fifth behind Dogpile, Vivísimo, Copernic Agent, and WebCrawler. We feel it's become a worthwhile service to consider now that it's followed Dogpile's lead in disclosing sponsored links in results. Users will find some nice query refinement links, though these aren't quite as useful as Dogpile's clustered results.
HotBot technically isn't a meta crawler in that it doesn't search several search engines simulatneously. However, it's unique in providing direct, dependable, easy access to the Web's four major crawler-based search engines: Inktomi (use the HotBot button); AlltheWeb (use the Lycos button, and note LookSmart results appear for more popular queries); Google; and Teoma (use the Ask Jeeves button). We felt it deserved honorable mention recognition. Don't like HotBot's unusual colors? Skin it with your own!
Copernic Agent, gleaning 12 percent of the popular vote, placed third. Last year, we named it a winner in this category. This year, because it's a downloadable piece of software, we decided ultimately it deserved recognition in the Search Toolbar category.
We listed many other meta search engines, including Ixquick, KartOO, Search.com, ProFusion, Fazzle.com, and SurfWax, but none received over 5 percent of the popular vote. This doesn't mean you shouldn't use them. They all offer interesting, and, in many cases, unique, features that can be quite helpful, depending on the type of searching you're doing.
Best News Search Engine
This category recognizes outstanding performance in helping Internet users locate news across the Web.
Winner: Google News
This year's awards for best news search engine are virtually a mirror image of last year's, with one exception: Google News screamed ahead of all other services in the popular vote, garnering an impressive 62 percent of 641 votes (compared with last year's 41 percent).
Google did little to improve its already impressive service other than add several regional versions and free news alerts. Readers clearly feel it's the best news search engine, and we're awarding based on their votes.
Second Place: Yahoo News
Yahoo News beefed up its news coverage this year, adding thousands of sources from Moreover and an RSS feed.
Yahoo News offers numerous features not available on Google News, such as the Full Coverage collections. The collections highlight the best news stories related to important current events, news message boards, audio and video clips, and others.
Yahoo News received just 22 percent of the popular vote. Not a bad showing, but far behind Google.
Honorable mention to AltaVista News, which earned 3 percent of the popular vote.
We considered giving AlltheWeb News an honorable mention, as we did last year, but didn't. It appears AltaVista News and AlltheWeb News use the same underlying database now that they're both Yahoo-owned. As the search results are virtually identical, the honorable mention goes to AltaVista for superior user interface and features.
Daypop earns our other honorable mention, due to continued strength in indexing Weblogs and interesting features such as "word bursts" and "news bursts." The bursts surface heightened usage of certain words in blogs and on the front pages of online news sources.
Best Image Search Engine
This category recognizes outstanding performance in helping Internet users locate images from across the Web.
Winner: Google Images
As with last year, we relied strongly on reader opinion in choosing a winner for this category. Google was the clear choice, receiving 73 percent of the 663 votes in the category.
Second Place: AltaVista Images
AltaVista was the second-place winner, with 13 percent of the vote. When we explicitly asked what service should win for second place, AltaVista got the most votes, with 30 percent.
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