While Google is very good, there are alternative search engines that can supply better results within niche areas. I’m not referring to Yahoo or Bing, which offer directly competing products (and, in my experience, less accurate results); rather, I’m talking about search engines that do things that Google, Yahoo and Bing don’t feature at all. A few of my favourites include:
Rather than trying to be a web-wide search engine, Wolfram Alpha is a “knowledge engine” that presents validated information in response to a query, intelligently organized onto a single page. Excellent at graphing data, long-term trends, science and math. Some examples of query responses from Wolfram Alpha: summer weather in Halifax, car ownership in China, the Fibonacci sequence, kestrel, when will the ISS be visible from Calgary?
Perhaps best thought of as “Google Image search in reverse”. Feed TinEye an image and it finds other images that look like the original in tone or subject. Also very useful for searching for image infringement on the web.
Once they are coloured, kerned, and printed out, fonts can be difficult to identify by eye. MyFont’s WhatTheFont attempts identification of fonts from uploaded images; Identifont takes the user through a series of questions and guides to determine the font in use.
A Russian project that is still in beta, Yandex (for “Yet Another indexed”) provides most results in English. It has some unique features: being Russian, it offers a poetry finder, automatically recognizing quoted lines; it also has a very good colour recognition system, translating any colour word entered into RGB, HSV and hex values.
One of the less-commonly understood effects of searching via Google is that it filters the results that you see: even if you’re not logged in, Google will present you with different results depending on your geographical location, right down to your city. This makes sense if you’re searching for a store – Google will show you local stores that match your search first – but rather more disturbing if you are searching for other things, such as abortion: in the US South, people using Google will receive anti-abortion links preferentially. Google will also provide search results based on links you have clicked on in the past: over time, this creates a “bubble” effect.
DuckDuckGo is an alternative search that does neither of those things: it neither tracks nor filters search results.