Lycos Redeems Itself With Relaunch

It’s been some time since I would have suggested that anyone turn to Lycos to search for anything, but the recent relaunch of the service is a surprising reversal of its decline. If you gave up on Lycos in the past, it is well worth revisiting the improved service.

The Lycos of the past year or so was a terrible mishmash of poor results and confusion. Queries on popular topics tended to bring back results that simply re-circulated you into proprietary Lycos content. Paid listings were placed at the top of the page as “Featured Listings,” often stuffed into the “Popular” area, and usually inserted again as another “Featured Listings” detour in the middle of the editorial results.

These past sins are now forgiven. The new layout is clean, with well-delineated sections and high-quality listings provided by FAST Search. Although I’d still give Google the relevancy edge, the improvements FAST Search has made in the past few months have made it an extremely strong contender in the relevancy race.

I’ll do a fast rundown of the results page and highlight the key points:

At the top of the results page, you’ll usually see three paid listings from Overture (formerly GoTo.com). At first, these were well identified by the new “Sponsored Search Listings” heading, but Lycos seems to have slipped back into using “Featured Listings.” Too bad, because I think “Sponsored Search Listings” is much clearer for those who want to know where paid listings appear.

The “Web Results” area is where you will find crawler-based listings provided by FAST. However, if Lycos has its own content relevant to your search, this may appear as the number one listing and is noted as “From The Lycos Network.” It’s a compact way to alert you to the company’s own information, which certainly may be useful, without getting in the way of results across the Web, for those who want them.

Lycos is still making use of human-compiled information from the Open Directory Project, but users are now given access to this through category links that appear below the crawler-based results, within the “Categories” section. Take a moment and review these options — you may find that a category link helps you hone in on what you are looking for better than the numbered listings.

Be aware that if you search again using the box at the bottom of the results page, your search will default to run only against Open Directory information, not against the crawler-based listings, as was the case with your original search. (Although you can choose to rerun your search using HotBot or DirectHit, you can’t choose all three nor can you do a FAST search). I think this may be confusing to some people, and personally I would prefer that the box default to searching both the crawler-based and the Open Directory information — just as it does from the Lycos home page.

If you do want to search again against the crawler-based listings, the easiest thing to do is scroll back up to the top of the results page and use the search box there.

The Lycos home page also sports a new look, and the navigational theme and icons at the top of the page carry through to other Terra Lycos-owned Web sites, such as HotBot.

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