Living in a non-Google world
This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on February 18, 2005
While Google hasn't acquired the negative cachet that Microsoft and AOL now have as a result of their tremendous success (a cachet Yahoo! has also managed to avoid, but eBay is slipping toward), there are still those who simply prefer the company of the underdog. For them, we have the following browsers.
After the bruising browser wars of the 1990s, Netscape kind of drifted from the forefront of public consciousness. But Netscape's portal at netscape.net was one of the very first search engines, and is one of the few early pioneers still going.
Of course, today, Netscape's searches are credited as being "enhanced" by Google. I don't know if that means Netscape still uses it's own proprietary search engine or if it simply fine-tunes Google for its own purposes, but Netscape searches return far fewer results than identical Google searches. And that's not always a bad thing; sometimes you don't want to have to sort through millions of results. And I'll give Netscape this: It's results tend to be of the most relevant sites.
Netscape also was one of the founding members of the Open Directory Project, but I couldn't find any links to that on the Netscape search page.
I noticed that my book review page came up in LookSmart's results page under the Netscape search (go figure). Clicking on that link brought me to Zeal, a community-driven directory project similar to the Open Directory Project. However, Zeal's seems to be proprietary shared only with corporate partners LookSmart, c|net, Lycos, InfoSpace, RoadRunner and Inktomi.
What's interesting about a directory as opposed to a search is that the results are hand-sifted by editors. Thus, a directory will likely never be as up-to-date as robot-driven search results like Google, but the results are at least in theory more relevant to your search.
Open Directory Project
The ODP is still alive and well, even if Netscape doesn't seem to be involved anymore. You can find the ODP's home page at dmoz.org. The ODP home page says there are 66,565 editors and more than 590,000 categories. Which is pretty incredible, and a pretty good resource for finding information online.
And one of the best features of the ODP is that since nobody owns it, anyone can add its listings to their sites. And thousands of thousands of people do.
I ran a search for my book reviews on Google, and more than 4,000 hits came up nearly every one of them a mirror of the ODP. Heck, even Google's directory page is nothing more than an ODP mirror.
Lycos was, along with Netscape, one of the early search engines to first begin cataloguing the World Wide Web. Lycos, though, is a mere shell of itself it's not kept up either with search technology nor with marketing. Lycos.com was also one of the first portal sites today, it seems little more than a holding space, and even its brand name value isn't worth what it once was. The search results are pretty thin, too.
Lots of people swear by Teoma for their searches. Searches run on Teoma return comparable numbers as with Google and Yahoo, yet bring up pages not found on either of the two biggies. So it's certainly a useful search utility, because it helps you find information that Google and Yahoo don't.
Amazon.com launched A9 a year or so ago, and while it's an interesting search engine with good results, it's never really been positioned to compete directly with Yahoo or Google. In fact, it's a step below Teoma in terms of results and usability.
If you have cookies turned on (at least, I'm assuming it's done via cookies), A9 will remember your previous searches and show them to you on your results page. Which, if you share your computer or use it at work, may or may not be a good thing, depending on what you've been searching for.
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