Metasearch Engines Instead of Google
If we are not talking about booking a vacation or buying new appliances, the term metasearch most likely won’t come up in a conversation in 2020. However, this was not the case at the beginning of the online search.
The first MetaCrawler search engine was developed by two American researchers from the University of Washington in 1995. A year later, MetaGer launched a project for a regional computing center for Lower Saxony, Germany. MetaGer metasearch engine is still working. Consolidation of the search engine market at the beginning of the millennium has led several genuine search engines, such as Excite or WebCrawler, to be converted to metasearch engines.
Metasearch was especially popular in the early 2000s when engines like Ixquick or Dogpile appeared as alternatives to Google and Yahoo!.
What Does a Meta Search Engine Do? What Is an Example of a Metasearch Engine?
A metasearch engine is not technically a search engine, but a web portal that combines web search results for a keyword or phrase from various search engines using its own algorithm. It provides users with many answers in one place. It eliminates the need to use each search engine separately to collect the desired results. Some examples of metasearch engines are lxquick, Metager, Metacrawler, Yabado, Dogpile, and Zoo.
To perform basic metasearch, a metasearch engine sends a request to multiple search engines. When search engines return the results and they are accepted by the metasearch mechanism, they are combined into a one-category list that is presented to the user.
The main problems are transferring user queries to other search engines, determining the correct search results from the results page returned by search engines, and merging the results from various search sources.
More complex metasearch mechanisms also perform search engine selection (called database selection), i.e. they identify the search engines most suitable for the request and send the request only to them.
- Increased search coverage. Metasearch effectively combines the coverage of all suitable search engines.
- User convenience. The metasearch mechanism allows users to receive information from several sources with one query, and the metasearch mechanism would hide from the user that there are various request formats from different search engines.
- Increased search efficiency. The result-merging component may naturally include a voting mechanism, i.e. the results that are highly ranked by several search engines are more likely to be ranked higher in the metasearch results.
In recent years, many content aggregator mechanisms have been developed and launched. This does not completely replace the metasearch but makes its results much more specific.
A content aggregator is a software component for extracting data from multiple sources and publishing it in one place. Most content aggregators are based on a small number of popular general-purpose search engines, but there are also metastudies related to more specialized search engines (for example, healthcare search engines), and some of them are associated with more than a thousand search engines.
The earliest metasearch mechanisms dealt with the issues of retrieving search results and merging their results; this led to creating aggregators. According to a focus group survey, users do not always want to go to different locations for information. It’s more convenient and cost-efficient to pay once and consume maximum content per month.
Merging results is one of the most fundamental components of metasearch. As a result, it has received great attention in the meta-research and distributed information search (DIR) communities.
To achieve an effective result of merging, there were many solutions proposed. Since different search engines can index a different set of web pages, and some search engines are better than others for search queries in specific areas, it is important to determine the appropriate search engines for each user query. The importance of choosing a search engine was recognized in the early stages of metasearch research, and many approaches have been proposed to solve this problem.
An extraction program is used to find records of search results from results pages returned from the search engine.
Although programs can be easy to create for experienced programmers, maintaining their performance can be a serious problem, since they tend to become obsolete when the search engines change their connection parameters and/or format of the displayed results.
In addition, for applications that need to connect to hundreds and thousands of search engines, creating and maintaining them can be very cost- and time-consuming. As a result, in recent years, much attention has been paid to methods for automatic wrapper generation. The figure below shows the basic architecture of a typical metasearch engine.
The main goal of metasearch is to support information collected from different search engines. This can be an effective search engine in both superficial and deep data sources.
Providing a common search interface in which several search engines are involved, metasearch helps the user find information using just one search query. This means that metasearch uses specific search components and can support entire specific applications.
For instance, for a large organization with many branches (such as a university with multiple campuses), where each branch has its own search engine, the metasearch mechanism, connecting all other branches, becomes the universal search engine for the entire organization.
If a metasearch engine is created for several e-commerce search engines selling the same product type, you can create a comparison shopping system.
Comparison shopping features require a different type of results aggregation, such as listing different search results that match the same product.
Let’s look at ShopSavvy. It is a price comparison platform, as well as a mobile shopping application that scans products and finds local online stores that have these products. To use it, all you have to do is just point your phone’s camera at the barcode. The application converts the barcode into a number and searches for the product in various online and local retail stores. Results are displayed based on price.
Metasearch Engines List
Most meta-search engines collapsed due to lack of traffic or changed the format, or completely changed the nature of their service. Our list of existing metasearch engines will be short.
- Startpage. In 2015, it merged with the Dutch metasearch engine Ixquick, which processes search queries anonymously and presents the results graded by stars. The more stars in a post, the more noticeable this result is in search engines rated by Startpage. Is Google a metasearch engine? This mechanism currently uses Google database for search and acts like a proxy server to protect user privacy.
- Metager is a German metasearch engine developed by SUMA eV in collaboration with the University of Hanover. Any search using this engine is anonymous. It’s worth noting the web associators that display semantically similar terms with a search query and search for code that shows an open source code.
- Metacrawler is a metasearch engine that combines German and international sources and offers professional search.
- AIO Search is one of the most advanced metasearch engines for torrent files. It browses over 170 torrent websites to find what you are looking for. It works just like Google, combining the results and displaying them on the search results page.
- Dogpile is an American metasearch engine that offers many features, such as “Preferences” (search settings), “Intelli search” (search recommendations), or “Favorite selections” (searches of other users).
- Mamma.com, one of the oldest metasearch engines, now works as a business intelligence service. As mentioned earlier, this is an example when a metasearch engine has moved to another area of services. In 2016, it turned into a website with coupon codes and discounts, and although the domain name Mamma.com is still active today, it is used as Trust Mamma, a website with business reviews.
In addition to saving time, metasearch engines offer you the ability to use lesser-known search engines. This way, you can find websites that otherwise would not be found for the same search query by a standard search engine.
However, market research shows that metasearch can no longer compete with the search industry of giants.
Since they do not have direct access to the autonomous engine database, they do not know how the pages were ranked initially. Therefore, their results are less relevant.
What Are the 3 Types of Search Engines?
There are three well-known types of search engines identified in various studies: navigational, informational, and transactional. All major search engines try to determine which type the user has chosen by analyzing the request and finding out the intentions of each user in order to better understand his needs.
Some users or software engineers distinguish search engines according to the following principles:
- Native search engines. Engines that independently crawl web pages, save them on their servers, and index them. These are Google, Bing, Baidu, Swisscows, MeekD.
- Derived search engines. They are related to native search engines that perceive results blindly, with a minimal change in ranking order. These search engines rely on new user/ anonymity requirements. For instance, DuckDuckGo (Bing), Ask (Google), Yahoo (Bing), Ecosia (Bing), StartPage.
- Search engine aggregators. Not officially associated with a search engine but they receive search results from 2-3 existing search engines. Qwant (Bing Google), Yandex News (Bing Google Swisscows).
Search engines can be divided into the following classes:
- Free text search engines such as Google where you can freely enter any text in the search field.
- Directory-based search engines that provide more specific lists of subject areas, with a list of websites depending on the situation.
- Multi- or metasearch engines. They conduct a search on several different engines or give you access to them.
- Social media engines.
- Multimedia search engines. Visual engines that produce miniature web page results.
- Similarity search engines that find other websites based on a URL search request.
- Country-specific search engines.
- Fact-based engines that simply provide facts, not websites, like Wolfram Alpha.
- Specialized engines focused on a specific subject.
What Are the TOP 5 Search Engines Besides Google?
Let’s talk about other options besides the leaders and direct competitors of Google such as Bing and Yandex. The market has specific search engines that are strong in certain categories. For example, in finding creative free content.
As for Google, this is not just a search engine, but a brand and a part of our everyday language by now. Thanks to constantly evolving algorithms and advertising, Google has gained a global market share of 87%.
So, let’s talk about alternative search engines to Google and their differences.
Alternative Search Engines
1. To Bing or not to Bing?
You might have already seen this logo and the landing page in some U.S. TV series and movies. This is the Bing search engine.
By 2020, Microsoft websites (Bing is owned by Microsoft) processed a quarter of all searches in the U.S. In some ways, Bing is superior to Google.
Bing has a reward program with which you can score points when searching which can be used in Microsoft and Windows stores.
Bing often provides twice as many autocomplete suggestions as Google. Regarding its graphical interface for image search, Bing has definitely made great strides compared to Google. Bing uses the same principles and offers a clear user experience for video search queries. You are provided with a grid of large thumbnails that you can hover over and watch a video.
In other words, the search results are shown separately from YouTube.
What about search engine alternatives outside the U.S.?
More than 45% of Russian Internet users use Yandex, along with the residents of the CIS countries.
One of the key differences between Google and Yandex is Yandex’s priority in geo-targeting.
As a bonus, Yandex offers a set of pretty cool tools. Another big plus is the availability to integrate tools from Adobe, such as Flash for watching videos and Reader for reading e-books in different formats.
If you are starting your own business and want to attract a Russian-speaking audience, use Yandex.
3. Creative Commons
Creative Commons is an American nonprofit organization that helps distribute the work of independent artists and freelancers. All their materials are available for legal use. This is an interesting search engine that clearly stands out from the commercial solutions.
CC should be used primarily when searching for almost any type of copyright-free content. This search engine is perfect if you need music for a video, an image for a blog post, or something else, without worrying that an upset artist will come after you for using their artwork. CC Search is simple: it finds results from Soundcloud, Wikimedia, and Flickr platforms, and displays results tagged as Creative Commons.
DuckDuckGo is a search engine well-known in the U.S. and Canada.
The significant difference between Google and DuckDuckGo is that the request in the latter can be tracked by someone who has already hacked your computer, but it will not combine your search data to create a profile.
DuckDuckGo as a search engine does not collect personal data. This means you can safely search without worrying about Big Brother watching you.
DuckDuckGo is the perfect choice for those who want to keep their browsing habits and personal information private.
One of the newcomers was introduced in January 2020 from the industry giant Verizon Media.
Verizon launched OneSearch that is also focused on privacy. This issue has become very important over the last few years. On their landing page, you can clearly see what they mean by confidentiality:
- No cookie tracking, retargeting, or user analysis.
- No exchange of personal data with advertisers or various databases.
- No storage of search history.
- Unfiltered search results.
- Search terms are encrypted.
There are other search engines, while we discussed the most popular ones.
Whatever the future holds, metasearch engines have made a significant contribution to the history of the Internet. They provided an alternative to the mainstream, and this healthy competition led to an overall improvement in the search service. As is often the case in any industry, you either raise the standards of your services or remain a pioneer. Technology is changing at breakneck speed. Here is a question about the metasearch lifespan — does it have everything to stay relevant for long? We can confidently say by looking at Google that it will always be there!