ClickZ's 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 Search Toolbar
New this year, the Search Toolbar category was created because of these utilities' popularity and to prevent people from voting for toolbars as search features.
Google was the clear winner, earning 68 percent of 646 votes. It deserves to win. The tool gained new enhancements this year, not all related to search. But it remains a dependable, helpful way to easily get more out of Google, with push-button access to special features.
Groowe received practically no votes (1 percent). How can it win? It's one of the few search toolbars that actually survived staying switched on in Danny's browser!
Groowe is simplicity itself. It installs fast and lets you mimic the features of those toolbars offered by Google and others, and it provides easy access to special features. If you want to hit multiple search engines without installing different toolbars, Groowe is for you.
Second Place: Alexa Toolbar
Alexa was the next most popular choice, with 7 percent of the votes for a winner. When we explicitly asked who should win second place, Alexa came out on top (21 percent of 348 votes).
We'll go with the votes and name the Alexa Toolbar our second-place choice. It's a great toolbar, providing access to Google-powered results combined with Alexa's own unique ratings and information about sites across the Web.
Honorable Mention: Copernic Agent
Copernic Agent is meta-search software that returns multiple search engine results to your desktop.
It was a winner in last year's meta-search category. This year, it was ranked third in that category, with 12 percent of the popular vote.
We felt the strength of that vote was enough to warrant an honorable mention. As Copernic Agent is software, we thought better to include it here as a great search utility.
Copernic does offer a separate toolbar version, but it operates differently than the agent. That toolbar was listed among voting choices for this category, but it was not among those receiving the most votes.
Best Search Feature
This category recognizes the best feature offered by a search engine to help users locate information. No features were listed on the form. Rather, voters were asked to write in their favorite.
The two most popular choices were Google's spell checking and Google cached links, with respectively 27 and 10 percent of the 211 votes cast. Both are wonderful features. But both have won this category in past years, so we looked to new features for this year.
Google Definitions is new, a former Google Labs project rolled out officially last year. Google Definitions was the top choice in the voting once the aforementioned Google features were eliminated, with 9 percent of the vote. We think it's a handy, easy way to see how people across the Web define different subjects. Going with the votes, Google Definitions is this year's winner.
Yahoo has a similar define feature. We like how Google leverages Web content to bring up a range of definitions, rather than depending on single (though authoritative) source.
AlltheWeb's URL Investigator launched last year. It's a simple yet incredibly helpful tool for anyone who wants to learn more about a particular URL or domain name. You can easily discover all pages indexed within a domain, jump to an Internet Archive link to see past versions of a page, find related subdomains, and view the page's language, when the page was last changed, document size, and all external pages linking to the URL. The URL Investigator won 3 percent of the vote in this category. We like it enough to name it the winner.
Google has a similar undocumented investigator-style feature that's more limited in scope. AlltheWeb's shows you all links it knows about that point to a document. Google shows only some links it knows about. The omission isn't disclosed on Google's help page, nor will Google explain exactly which links it suppresses.
The Google Calculator is another new feature this year. It allows you to add, subtract, convert measures, and do an amazing range of calculations within the Google search box. The calculator got 6 percent of the vote, just behind Google Definitions. We award it second place based on usefulness and votes received.
AlltheWeb offers its own calculator, first available in mid-2002 but publicized in early 2003. We feel it ranks second alongside Google. It may not have Google's range, but the instructions are much clearer. What it can do will be very useful to many people.
The Google Web API isn't a feature a searcher would use. It enables programmers to create special applications that use Google's search results. We like the idea of a search engine letting people come up with creative uses for its data. Applications range from crossword puzzle clues to movie popularity. Though the Google API program was launched in 2002, it was popularized last year and deserves an honorable mention.
Ask Jeeves Dictionary Search is similar to Google Definitions in that if you enter a search for "define" followed by what you want to look up, you have access to definitions. You can find a single definition, access definitions from many dictionaries, search reference material, or browse specialty dictionaries. There's easy access to a great set of reference links.
We don't like that material pops up in a frame, and the feature isn't documented. So it's not the winner but deserves an honorable mention.
Best Specialty Search Engine
No awards in this category. Of the 277 write-in votes received, the vast majority were for specialized search engines that received awards last year.
The form did suggest reviewing last year's winners for ideas. Instead of new suggestions, it seems to have reinforced all the same services that were already recognized.
Don't get us wrong -- the services we recognized last year are excellent, and a high number of votes attest to their popularity. But to make the category meaningful, we'll review ideas on how to better present a selection of tools to place in front of voters for next year.
The top choices earn honorable mentions for 8 percent or more of votes cast. The others earned 4 percent or less.
Finally, the voting form requested general comments. A sampling:
We love you too! Our sincere thanks to all who voted, especially those who took the time to leave detailed comments. We read through them all.
Want more search information? ClickZ Search Archives contains all our search columns, organized by topic.
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