Friday 15 September 2017

#251 Which old search engines are still around?

When's the last time you asked someone to Google something and they said "I don't use Google. I use Excite"?

Yet somehow, miraculously, it's still there. You can type in more or less any of the old search engine names that you used to use in the 90s. Lycos, Hotbot, AOL and they're all still alive and presumably being used by someone or something. Perhaps Sergey Brin's old nemesis from high school or that engineer who recently wrote the anti-diversity memo. But that's still only two people...

From my days at uni, I can recollect another one or two very very geeky types, who've probably found some reason to convince themselves to choose one of the more unpopular search engines, an obvious subconscious decision to make up for nobody ever choosing them due to their own unpopularity.

How do they stack up against each other though?

I tried typing "How do I get to Maidstone?" into Google and instantly received a map and the answer that it was a 55 minute drive down the A2. Now, I don't actually own a car and am somewhat surprised Google doesn't know that but its first proper result is still fairly helpful. A suggestion that I take the train, along with journey time and a price. Not bad considering I haven't even clicked a link yet.

Let's see what happens when I type the same into Hotbot.

Maybe this is why the search engines are still active. Hotbot appears to have hijacked the Microsoft search engine, Bing and has given me pretty much the same information as Google, except the first three rows are advertising for tourism and hotels. I find this most unwelcome. I haven't even figured out how to get there yet. Apart from that, the results are fairly evenly matched.

Excite, on the other hand did an appalling job. No map, no journey time. Just a single link to The Trainline, followed by two links to hotels. The next result was completely irrelevant.

So there you are. My simple and not-to-be-relied-upon test suggested to me that while you can visit most of the old search engines, for nostalgia, you're unlikely to find much else there that you can't find using Google. There are, of course, going to be a few differences in layout and functionality when it comes to the searching and fringe features such as email but I'll leave that to the geeks to figure out. For the time being at least, I'm sticking with Google.

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