The 2001 Search Engine Awards, Part 3: Best Design, Most Webmaster Friendly, and the Hall Of Fame

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. In this last installment of our three-part look at the best of the best, Google is still sweeping the awards. The Hall Of Fame has gained some new inductees, as well.

Best Design

This category recognizes the Web-wide search engine deemed to have the most pleasing design.

Winner: Google

Once again, we were heavily influenced by readers. And once again, they came out for Google. Of the 528 valid votes received, 55 percent liked Google’s design. Or perhaps its lack of design. Voters said repeatedly they like the fact Google is “clean and simple.” It’s actually unfair to call this a lack of design. The company has purposely cultivated a clean and simple look, one of the hallmarks of its success with users.

Other Notable Results

AllTheWeb came behind Google with 12 percent of the vote, followed by AltaVista with 8 percent, Yahoo with 5 percent, and MSN Search with 3 percent. All others were 2 percent or less.

Most Webmaster Friendly Search Engine

The idea behind this category is to allow readers to vote for the search engine, either human-powered or crawler-based, that they felt sent them the most traffic. In particular, the category is meant to recognize the search engine sending the most “free” traffic to Webmasters, especially without them having to spend massive amounts of time on optimization efforts. The category didn’t explicitly say this, but, from comments received, many of those voting did seem to understand this.

Winner: Google

We went with our readers here. Google gained 52 percent of the 326 valid votes received in the category. Comments often stressed that a big plus was that Google seemed to get many of their pages. “Don’t need to submit URL to them. They will find you,” said one person. “Indexes all of my sites and quickly, too,” said another. “It finds sites on its own, crawls the pages, and updates its database at least once a month. I also like the fact that Google works hard to maintain relevance in its search results, even if that means upsetting cloakers, multiple-domain spammers, SEO consultants who use invisible crosslinks between sites to boost PageRank for their clients, and other people who give search engine optimization a bad name,” said a third.

Honorable Mention: Zeal

Zeal wasn’t a nominee, but in retrospect it should have been. Zeal is the volunteer-run directory LookSmart acquired in September 2000. In mid-2001, LookSmart overhauled the guide and integrated its listings into the information that LookSmart distributes to its partners, such as MSN Search.

As a result, people with noncommercial content had a new — and free — route to getting listed and obtaining traffic. The commitment to Zeal especially deserves recognition during a year when most other search engine developments aimed at Webmasters involved fee-based programs.

Hall Of Fame

The Hall Of Fame recognizes outstanding performance in helping Internet users locate information over an extended period of time or for having broken new ground in the search space. Inductees currently include Yahoo and FindLaw, added last year. They are joined by AltaVista and the Open Directory.

Inductee: AltaVista

AltaVista launched in December 1995 and quickly became the Google of its day (or is Google the AltaVista of its day?). Things people now widely praise Google for brought AltaVista kudos years ago. AltaVista raised the bar tenfold in coverage of the Web by search engines, from the typical 2 million pages offered by competitors to over 20 million pages. It was relevant, fast, and offered clean and simple design. It had a range of handy power search commands and provided its own newsgroup search. It popularized page translation linked to search results and offered basic spell checking and automatic phrase detection. It was without a doubt one of the top search engines people depended on for several years.

AltaVista has suffered from a variety of owners that never seemed to know what to do with it. Eventually, it was sent it down the terrible path of transformation into a portal. Today, AltaVista seeks a turnaround to recover past glory. Whether it will get there remains to be seen, but for its past work AltaVista is added to the Hall Of Fame.

Inductee: The Open Directory

The way many people depend on Google today was the way many people depended on Yahoo back in 1998. The problem was, at least for Webmasters, getting listed in human-powered Yahoo was unpredictable. It could take weeks or months for editors to list a site, if it happened at all. There was no paid “express” option. People were crying out for change.

Change came, but not from Yahoo Instead, a volunteer guide called NewHoo was created in June 1998, with the vision that if enough people were involved, sites could easily be listed. By November, it caught the eye of Netscape and was purchased, with a pledge its listings would always be made open to anyone who wanted them — hence its new name, the Open Directory.

Since then, the Open Directory has been an important resource for those seeking information on the Web. For instance, anyone using the Google Directory owes a debt to the volunteers of the Open Directory, which powers Google’s edition.

The Open Directory has its problems, in particular with some editors abusing their authority. Nothing is without fault, especially in a volunteer situation. Dmoz, as the Open Directory is known to its editors and many site owners, remains the only major Web directory that’s completely free for submissions. For its significant role in shaping how the Web is indexed, the Open Directory is added to the Hall Of Fame.

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