Meta search engines, like Dogpile, have been around a long time. The idea is pretty simple and powerful, if one search engine is good, then combining the results of multiple search engines must be better. For some reason though, they haven’t really taken off.

Maybe the issue is the way the results of multiple search engines are presented. It’s possible that showcasing the results of multiple search engines in a results page that looks just like Google, or Yahoo!, or Microsoft’s results pages is the wrong idea.

Enter SearchCrystal. It’s a meta search engine that displays the results graphically, in a circular (target style) display. I find it particularly useful for image search. Here’s the result I got when I went looking for a photo of Jens Lekman to decorate my post yesterday.

Around the edges of the circle, you will see various image search engines like Flickr, Ask Images, Google, MSN, and Yahoo!  As you get closer to the center of the circle, the images that show up are those that are found on multiple search engines. In the case of Jens, there weren’t many, but I generally find the ones in the center are the most interesting and certainly most popular images.

The tabs across the top showcase what kinds of searchs you can do; web, images, video, blogs, news, tags, wikipedia, and mashup. The mashup search is kind of fun if you are looking to kill some time.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. howardlindzon

    slow but pretty cool and at least different.

    1. Anselm

      Howard, thanks.Surely not as fast as Google, yet searchCrystal does not have the same resources 🙂 … it needs to wait until it receives the results from all the engines being consulted … blog and tag engines tend have the slowest response times … searchCrystal is an experimental service and we are exploring how to enable people to perform powerful searches visually.

  2. Anselm

    Fred, thank you! As one of the developers of searchCrystal, I would like add that searchCrystal shows you the quality of the results and guides you toward relevant results: a) the more engines that find a result and the more highly they rank it, the better the result;b) the greater the agreement between the search engines, the better the quality of results.These two findings are based on research I have done. You mention that meta search engines have not taken off – dogpile used to have much higher traffic numbers.Why? I think that one of the reasons is that meta search engines tend to insert “sponsored results” toward the top of the result page and so “pollute” the search experience. More importantly, they are not really taking advantage of what meta search can offer by visualizing how the search engines agree, which contains valuable information (as mentioned above). For example, if I do a web search for “Jens Lekman” in searchCrystal, there is quite a bit of the overlap between the search engines.I am not an expert about “Jens Lekman” and before your post did not even know who he is :)Looking at the searchCrystal visualization of the web results, I can see that the results found by all engines and placed in the very center of the target or bullseye display could be highly relevant, and they are.Because I can see all the results in one display and that many results are recommended by multiple engines, I can tell that the quality of the results is pretty good and that I have found relevant results to tell me who Jens Lekman” is.searchCrystal can be used a powerful research tool and SEO tool, since it provides a “visual mirror” how the search engines see specific topics.

  3. chao lam

    We’ve developed a social metasearch website that shows results in a tabular format. Of course, I’m biased, but I find the tabular way of ranking search results pretty effective too.