As of this writing, Google doesn't own the whole world. But it does have a solid lock on our browsing habits.
Want proof? Try typing "good" into the address bar of your browser — did you accidentally type "goog"? Yeah, me too.
When a co-worker heard I was writing this story, he asked (semi-jokingly), "but if I'm using a different search engine, how will I get Google results back?"
Depending on who you ask, Google accounts for between 40 and 50-something percent of the search engine market (add in Yahoo and MSN and the figure jumps to around 90 percent). And rightly so — the service gives speedy results and has a very good user interface.
But don't you ever want to try a different search engine, just to see where it takes you?
After all, Google's search results are based on relevance and popularity, so scrolling through Google results isn't the best way to get off the beaten path and discover new Web territory.
Here, for your surfing pleasure, are 11 ways to do exactly that.
1. ChaCha (http://www.chacha.com)
Can't find what you're looking for? ChaCha.com lets you talk to a real live professional "Guide" who takes your query and returns related results tailor-made to your specifications.
The service is free, and is quirky enough to be a lot of fun (a friend of mine learned first-hand that if you flirt with your guide, sometimes they'll flirt back, though of course that's against ChaCha policy). The service doesn't require any registration, and it's completely free.
2. Clusty (http://clusty.com)
The unfortunately named Clusty.com takes a different approach to search results.
Whereas Google arranges your results in a simple list, Clusty first aggregates the results from several search engines (Google not included), then arranges them in clusters to help you further refine your search.
For instance, a search for "Dell XPS" returns clusters like various XPS model numbers, reviews and shopping links with prices.
3. Ask.com (http://www.ask.com)
Ask.com isn't a member of the Search Engine Triumvirate (Google, Yahoo and MSN), but it's incredibly feature-rich and uses "subject-specific popularity."
Instead of ordering results simply by popularity, it orders them by "popularity among pages considered to be experts on the topic of your search."
We conducted some sample searches and the results were ordered quite a bit differently than corresponding Google searches. And we love the page-preview feature and the editorially selected "Smart Answers" that appear within your search results.
4. Kosmix (http://www.kosmix.com)
Kosmix.com is a topical search engine that is still very much a beta service.
It conducts searches by category, and includes six for searching: Health, Video Games, Finance, Travel, U.S. Politics and Auto.
On timely issues, Kosmix results are pretty terrible. The U.S. Politics channel had nothing on Mitt Romney's recent campaign-finance success — a big story right now — and the most recent results when searching on "Imus" are from 2005.
Interestingly, the paid search results are much more timely and relevant, which is a shame, because Kosmix includes the cool ability to sort results by political persuasion.
Many of the results were outdated, though, so it was tricky to test the filter's effectiveness on search terms other than broad issues such as "campaign financing" or "global warming."
For non-timely issues and search terms, like health topics, Kosmix fared much better. It included lots of information on prevention, treatment, and risk factors, along with the standard list of search results.
5. StumbleUpon (http://www.stumbleupon.com)
StumbleUpon gives you thumbs-up/thumbs-down icons in your toolbar and lets you rate pages and sites you come across. As StumbleUpon learns your preferences, it gets better at directing you to stuff you'll like.
There's also a social aspect; you can add other people with similar interests to your friends list, and their preferences will further refine your search results.
StumbleUpon's Web site can be slow at times, but it's a great way to find Web content you wouldn't be exposed to otherwise.
6. Technorati (http://www.technorati.com)
If you're not including blogs in your Web searches, you're missing out on a ton of great content that is often too timely to be listed near the top of typical search results (which skew toward popularity instead of timeliness).
Google has a blog search tool, but we're talking about Google alternatives here, and the best one we've seen is Technorati.
The blog search service includes plenty of ways to search for the hottest blog content, including a Top Searches list, a list of the most-linked-to blogs and the music, movies, videos and games that the most bloggers are linking to.
Searching is easy, and you can sort your search results by timeliness (for the newest content) or authority (blogs with more inbound links have more authority).
7. Draze (http://www.draze.com)
Draze MetaSearch lets you collect search results quickly from the Big Three search engines: Google, MSN and Yahoo.
The homepage is a typical Google-looking page, with a search bar. Once you enter your search term, you get the best results back from all the different search engines.
You can also choose to view the results from just one of the search engines, or exclude the results from one. The results page includes a "Peek-a-Boo" feature that gives you full, scrollable page previews, so you don't have to click through to see that a page isn't helpful.
8. Ms. Dewey (http://www.msdewey.com)
Ms. Dewey is more of a sexy, playful search engine than a useful one. If you felt weird reading that, I felt even weirder typing it.
Ms. Dewey is a personable (read: flirty) interface for Windows Live Search, which uses an actress's canned video responses and phrases to interact with users.
The search engine was quite slow, though, and results are displayed in a relatively small window that is cumbersome to scroll through.
We can only assume that the main draw of this search method is Ms. Dewey herself.
9. Search With Kevin (http://searchwithkevin.prodege.com)
If Ms. Dewey doesn't do it for you, why not search the Web with the help of divorced former backup dancer Kevin Federline?
The Search With Kevin search engine is a promotional site built by Prodege where users can win great prizes, such as an autographed K-Fed CD. Beat that, Google!
It's a bizarre little search tool, and includes Web, image and news searches, with a shopping search on the way. I'd like to say I resisted the urge to do an image search for Britney Spears, but, well, I didn't.
10. Rollyo (http://www.rollyo.com)
Rollyo.com, short for "Roll Your Own Search Engine," lets users do just that.
You can do general searches or category searches (like searching for "iPhone" in the Tech category) to get results from blogs and the Web at large, or create your own search engine (or "Searchroll") to only search specific sites.
For instance, I created a Searchroll that only searches my favorite music blogs, so I can hunt for band info from just those specific blogs. You can also view other users' Searchrolls, including celebrity search rolls.
There aren't many instances in which I'd want to limit the number of sites I'm searching, but if that's your thing, Rollyo definitely makes it easy. The site is still in beta but worked pretty well for me.
11. NetTrekker (http://www.nettrekker.com)
NetTrekker's a good one for the kiddies. The search engine is aimed at schools and students, and every site that is included in a list of search results has been hand-picked by a staff of educators to ensure safe surfing.
A search for "stars," for instance, will include lots of info about constellations and zero about Paris Hilton.
The only problem: it ain't free. The service costs a cool $4.95 a month. Check with your kids, though, as they may have a school login, which they can use at home.
Copyright © 2007 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Ziff Davis Media Inc. is prohibited.