Six Great Ways to Search the Web

Sure everyone knows all about the search engines like Google, Yahoo and now Microsoft's new Bing. But there are numerous other ways to find information on the Internet. Here are six great ways to search for exactly what you need on the Internet.

Search Engines

The search engines are the first place everyone heads to and they have become household names. Google has even become a verb and now people around the world are Googling for information on the Internet. Here are a list of some other search engines that might give you more interesting results:

A fairly lengthy and complete list of search engines and more can be found at Wikipedia's List of Search Engines page.

Another area of search engines are the metasearch engines. These services will query multiple search engines at once and then compile the results. There are multiple levels of complexity in these sorts of metasearch engines. Dogpile and Clusty are two services that do a good job while Surfwax and Copernic offer specialized services which incorporate different feature sets to help you search more quickly.

Subject Directories

If you have a specific piece of information you are looking for and it fits neatly into a particular category this is a good place to start. These sites include libraries, academic institutions, research facilities and usually include the 'best of the best' as well as peer-reviewed publications for business and academics. Directories have even been created by both Google and Yahoo!.

The major benefit with subject directories is that you can limit the results based on the categories provided to help you better find exactly what you're looking for. Additionally, since the directories only take 'high quality' websites the information you get back should be better. About.com also utilizes this sort of categorization and many of the articles there are written by people considered experts in their particular fields.

Wikipedia's List of Web Directories

Searchable Databases

Not everything on the web is placed so that it's easy to find. There's a part of the Internet called the Invisible Web which is not indexed by search engines and therefore is more difficult to find and search. The portion of the web that is fully searchable by the standard search engines is estimated at 167 Terabytes while the Invisible Web is estimated to have 91,000 Terabytes of information. Many search engine technologies are learning to cope with all of this content and it is starting to be indexed, but much of it is still missing. So how does one tap into all that hidden information? The easiest solution is to go to the source. If you have a particular piece of information you're seeking, try finding a database that might contain it and search through there. These are generally pages that have some sort of password protected system, CAPTCHA (challenge response system) or certain types of dynamic pages.

There is no major list compiled of Invisible Web resources which is part of the problem. One major project that attempted to do this was DeepPeep while another is OAIster, which searches some 1139 contributors, created by the University of Michigan. Another trick to get into the Invisible Web is to use the keyword “database” in a standard Internet search engine.

Social Networking

Social Networking is the latest craze on the Internet and includes online communities of people who share certain interests, activities, etc. While many of them are just about connecting to other people, some can be used to glean new information from the web. Services such as StumbleUpon will give you recommendations on websites that might be of interest to you based on a set of interests and keywords. Other services like LinkedIn focus on connecting people in business but also give you a resource where you can ask for the opinions of others or to be pointed in the right direction.

Social Bookmarking

Social Bookmarking sites like Reddit, Delicious and Digg all allow users to bookmark or share links of interest. They all contain categories and notifications so you needn't go searching, the information can even be brought to you to save time. All three have ways for users to increase (and possibly decrease) the popularity or relevant importance of some links that are dropped into the services. Not all links bookmarked at these sites will be useful but many could be interesting, informative or something you might use later. The peer-review means that others find the links useful and help them float to the top so to be more easily found.

Real-Time Search

Another new approach to search is real-time. Want to know what people are talking about right now? That's where places like Twitter and Scoopler come in. They let you find out what the hot topics are at the very moment. To catch all there is from Twitter is a gigantic feat of endurance and speed reading. So the best way to search it is just to use the onsite search. Some people choose not to Tweet and instead head to Friendfeed to do their real-time microblogging so that has become another resource for real-time search. Collecta is another site that considers itself real-time but includes blogs, comments and more so it's not 100% real-time. Scoopler (mentioned earlier) covers Twitter, Flickr, Digg and Delicious. Twingly does microblog searching and covers Twitter, Jaiku, Identica and Bleeper. The major search engines are trying to get into the real-time search business but Twitter (the biggest player) is wanting cash for their full real-time feed (Twitter Firehose) which will be a limiting factor in access to that information for now.

Searching the vast amount of information on the Internet can be a daunting task and many times you won't find exactly what you are searching for. This list of resources is aimed at making you more productive in your web searching and offers you alternative ways to search as well as the standard keyword-based search engines. This is in no way an exhaustive list of ways to search the Internet but it does give an excellent cross-section of what is available.