Who Are The Major Search Engines

Why are these considered to be the Major Search Engines? They are all either well known or well used. For search engine marketers, these are the most important places to be listed, because they can potentially generate so much traffic. For users/searchers, these well known, commercially backed search engines generally mean more dependable results. These search engines are more likely to be well maintained and upgraded when necessary, to keep pace with the growing web.

Not all are “true” search engines that crawl the web. For instance, Yahoo, and LookSmart are “directories” that depend on humans to compile their listings. In fact, most of them offer both search engine and directory information, though they will predominately feature one type of results over the other.
AOL Search
AOL Search allows AOL members to search the web and AOL’s own content from one place. The “external” version, listed above, does not list AOL content. The main listings for categories and web sites come from the Open Directory. Inktomi also provides crawler-based results, as backup to the directory information. Before the launch of AOL Search in October 1999, the AOL search service was Excite-powered AOL NetFind.

AltaVista is a large search engine, in terms of pages indexed. Its comprehensive coverage and wide range of power searching commands makes it a particular favorite among researchers. It also offers a number of features designed to appeal to basic users, such as “Image Search” results. AltaVista opened in December 1995.

Ask Jeeves
Ask Jeeves is a human-powered search service that aims to direct you to the exact page that answers your question. If it fails to find a match within its own database, then it will provide matching web pages from various search engines. Some results from Ask Jeeves also appear within AltaVista.

It was the first search engine to break the 200 million web page index milestone and consistently has one of the largest indexes of the web. The Norwegian company behind FAST Search also powers some of the results that appear at Lycos. FAST Search launched in May 1999.

Unlike the other major search engines, Overture sells its main listings. Companies can pay money to be placed higher in the search results, which Overture says improves relevancy. Non-paid results come from Inktomi. Overture launched in 1997. Paid listing from Overture also appears on other major search engines, including AltaVista, AOL Search, Lycos, HotBot and Netscape Search.

Google is a search engine that makes heavy use of link popularity as a primary way to rank web sites. This can be especially helpful in finding good sites in response to general searches such as “cars” and “travel,” because users across the web have in essence voted for good sites by linking to them. The system works so well that Google has gained wide spread praise for its high relevancy. Google also has a huge index of the web and provides some results to Yahoo.

HotBot is a favorite among researchers due to its many power searching features. In most cases, HotBot’s first page of results comes from the Direct Hit, and then secondary results come from the Inktomi search engine, which is also used by other services. It gets its directory information from the Open Directory project. HotBot launched in May 1996 as Wired Digital’s entry into the search engine market. Lycos purchased Wired Digital in October 1998 and continues to run HotBot as a separate search service.

Backed by US television network CBS, iWon has a directory of web sites generated automatically by Inktomi, which also provides its more traditional crawler-based results. iWon gives away daily, weekly and monthly prizes in a marketing model unique among the major services. It launched in Fall 1999.

Originally there was an Inktomi search engine at UC Berkley. The creators then formed their own company with the same name and created a new Inktomi index, which was first used to power HotBot. Now the Inktomi index also powers several other services. All of them tap into the same index, though results may be slightly different. This is because Inktomi provides ways for its partners to use a common index yet distinguish themselves. There is no way to query the Inktomi index directly, as it is only made available through Inktomi’s partners with whatever filters and ranking tweaks they may apply.

LookSmart is a human-compiled directory of web sites. In addition to being a stand-alone service, LookSmart provides directory results to MSN Search, Excite and many other partners. Inktomi provides LookSmart with search results when a search fails to find a match from among LookSmart’s reviews. LookSmart launched independently in October 1996. It was backed by Reader’s Digest for about a year, and then company executives bought back control of the service. Now LookSmart charges for submission to it’s Network of Search Engines.

Lycos started out as a search engine, depending on listings that came from spidering the web. In April 1999, it shifted to a directory model similar to Yahoo. Its main listings come from the Open Directory project, and then secondary results come from the FAST Search engine. Some Direct Hit results are also used. In October 1998, Lycos acquired the competing HotBot search service, which continues to be run separately.

MSN Search
Microsoft’s MSN Search service is a LookSmart-powered directory of web sites, with secondary results that come from Inktomi. RealNames and Direct Hit data is also made available. MSN Search also offers a unique way for Internet Explorer 5 users to save past searches.

Open Directory
The Open Directory uses volunteer editors to catalog the web. Formerly known as NewHoo, it was launched in June 1998. It was acquired by Netscape in November 1998, and the company pledged that anyone would be able to use information from the directory through an open license arrangement. Netscape itself was the first licensee. Lycos and AOL Search also make heavy use of Open Directory data.

Yahoo is the web’s most popular search service and has a well-deserved reputation for helping people find information easily. The secret to Yahoo’s success is human beings. It is the largest human-compiled guide to the web, employing about 150 editors in an effort to categorize the web. Yahoo has over 1 million sites listed. Yahoo also supplements its results with those from Google. If a search fails to find a match within Yahoo’s own listings, then matches from Google are displayed. Google matches also appear after all Yahoo matches have first been shown. Yahoo is the oldest major web site directory, having launched in late 1994.


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