MetaSearch: Taking Search to a New Level

By roopakroopak (1228303537|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

Introduction

Metasearch is amazing! I had no idea such tools existed before. This was finally a tool that revived the excitement brought about by RSS and news searches. Metasearch is Google plus Yahoo plus Everything. As a result, it has capabilities that cannot exist with individual search engines.

Class Exercise

In class for BIT 330, we went through several metasearch tools and entered an identical query. We then looked at the top 10 results in each and determined how many were relevant. I used the query ["oil consumption" -intitle:prices] because this has been my most successful query with web searches for my project. Below are my results from the class exercise.

Search tools
Google Yahoo Search Info ixQuick Mamma Clusty DogPile
9 8 9 10 9 5 10 7

As can be clearly seen, most of the metasearch engines performed equally well or better than Google and Yahoo individually. If Mamma and Dogpile are factored out, it seems better to use metasearch tools than individual search engines.

Other advantages

In addition to providing more relevant results, metasearch engines allow you to see how many different search engines returned each result and allow you to use many different types of searches at the same place (news, video, image, academic, etc.). For instance, looking at the results of the query used for the class exercises in ixQuick below, you can tell how many times the results came up in the individual search engines by the number of stars next to the result. You can also see the ranking of each result in each individual search engine.

ixquick.results.bmp

This is very helpful in determining which results are likely the most relevant. Since results are sorted by number of stars, those sources deemed relevant by the greatest number of sources appear first. This can really allow you to take advantage of the benefits that come from using multiple search engines.

Dogpile provides a good example of a metasearch tool that allows you to use many different types of searches at the same place. It has separate tabs for Web Search, Image Search, Audio Search, Video Search, and News Search as shown below.

dogpile.bmp

This makes it very convenient for finding all different kinds of resources on one topic in one place. Yes, Google does have Web Search, Image Search, Video Search, etc. and you can access the different searches by clicking on different tabs or the dropdown arrow. The difference with Dogpile is that it incorporates different individual search engines in its search including Google, Yahoo, Live, and Ask.

Another type of metasearch tool

The tools above provide an integrated search for multiple search engines. Another type of metasearch tool provides a unified interface for separate search engines. Though I did not explore these as much, they are pretty interesting and I found these more useful for searches on topics that I just wanted some quick information about. For instance, Soovle allows you to see results from the one or two most popular search sites of each type at once. It gives you results from web search sites (Google and Yahoo), a video site (Youtube), and an encyclopedia site (Wikipedia), among others. Another site of this kind that I found particularly interesting is Joongel. This is basically a directory of search sites. It has the cool feature of allowing you to choose a category of sites (Tech, Finance, Movies, Shopping, etc.) for your query to search in.

Conclusion

Metasearch tools have many capabilities and allow you to perform a search in many different resources at once. They also sometimes point out the overlap between these resources allowing you to really gain from this collaborative approach. One of the best aspects of metasearch tools is that they introduce you to many new search engines that you probably didn't know about before. After using a metasearch engine several times, results from certain search engines may clearly appear more relevant. This would provide new information as to which search engines are best to use for which topics. Many of these search engines are not widely known simply because their functions are so specialized, but it is precisely for that reason that they are so valuable.

I will be using metasearch tools a lot in the future. Currently, I don't know about a wide variety of different search engines, so I am hoping that by using metasearch engines I will be introduced to new search engines that better cater to my needs. This way, I will be able to go to a specialized search engine for my finance queries, for instance, instead of just typing them into Google.

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