I am making a personal effort to avoid using Google lately. If you’ve talked to me lately, you know why–and to be polite I’m going to keep my psychotic ranting and hating off my weblog. So, other than Google, what is there?
If you can remember the 90s, Alta Vista was the search engine that was all the rage. In my opinion, Alta Vista’s peak was when they were owned by Digital Computer Corporation, but it all went downhill when they split off into their own company during the dot-com boom of the late 90s. Today, Alta Vista clearly shows signs of neglect, and is not a very good search engine…
If you pay attention to the news, you’d know that Google does not like MSN Search very much: so much so that Google is suing Microsoft over search engine placement in Internet Explorer 7. I’m not so sure what Google is worried about, because if you use MSN Search for a while, you realize it’s not very good and doesn’t hold a candle to Google’s search results.
However, Microsoft’s “beta” search engine, Windows Live, is a different story. If Microsoft replaces MSN Search with the technology powering Windows Live, Google better start getting worried. Search results are a little bit more broad than Google, but still remain concise and accurate. Windows Live, however, has a totally horrible UI. It’s awful! It’s the definition of when you go overkill with AJAX and DHTML. Besides being slow, it does not work too well with Mozilla Firefox, and my personal pet peeve: it uses low-contrast greys and blues in its design, so it can be a strain to read anything.
Fortunately, you’re not forced to use Windows Live’s interface, because there a few partners using their search results. Amazon’s A9 search engine now fetches results from Windows Live, and its UI is great. For some hard-to-quantify reason I like its UI more than Google’s.
Last but not least is Alltheweb. Bought by Yahoo a few years ago, Alltheweb has always delivered great search results, but was too little to be really compete with the big boys. Being small, they’ve had some interesting innovative features, such as custom CSS for those who want to customize how their search results look.
Yahoo is continuing the the tradition, especially with Alltheweb’s Livesearch. Unlike Windows Live, Alltheweb’s Livesearch uses AJAX in quite a slick way, providing a unique search UI that is focused on providing suggestions, similar to Google Suggest, but better.